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AIMS - to research, publish and promote the industrial history of the London Borough of Greenwich

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    - and - how about Telcon's 1951 roving camera - and who they snapped.

    - and just to add that the clipping at the sides of that picture are them not me!

    Who they also snapped - on a visit to Greenwich for the Commonwealth Telecommunucations Conference - was Lord Reith himself.  You clearly can't do better than that!!   Here are some snaps of the great man.

    Here he is on the way down here, on a the Festival launch

    Looks round the works - Telcothene was Telcon's Polythene

    And makes his points over lunch

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    This from an (undated) Telcon House Magazine - probably late 1951 or early 1952.  This is a walk most of us can still recognise although it is going fast now. It runs from what is now the Alcatel factory - there and back.  I've put a short commentary at the end.

    After lunch - a walk down the river when it’s all set fair for a stroll.

    Through the factory, sleeping restlessly, to the towpath, presided over by the towering" Monarch," resplendent in her new autumn coat of paint and on past the wharf to Piper's. A stop for a moment to study the battered barges awaiting attention, and a look in the yard at one yet to be launched, sparing a quick glance into the murkiness of Providence Wharf, and then under the towering cranes, between walls of corrugated iron, brilliant in the watery sunshine, and fascinating in their play of light and shade, then led by the path back to the water again.

    No time was available for loitering and the path was still leading on, by the tavern with its ambiguous "FREE HOUSE" sign and beyond, into the shadow of the Generating Station, its chimneys belching forth its filth, and its body, splintered as though wounded, lying in a  labyrinth of steel scaffolding; past ugly gaps in the adjacent houses which revived fading memories of diving planes and screeching bombs; the junk yard, full of things that once had meaning, and with its locked gates mocked by the broken fence.

    Children were playing in the road, soldiers with crude wooden swords the eight-year-old in charge ordering.. Wait there while I go and do something important," and returning with an ice cream for his  four-year-old sister. Two more were staring longingly into the sweet shop window, without hope, for their pennies were spent already.

    Into the main road, threading through the busy lunch-time shoppers and those who, like myself were merely lookers-on ; failing to resist the attraction of Woolworths, succumbing to the lure of buying ‘Just what I want to do that job;' and realizing on glancing at the clock that time was short and speed essential.

    Christchurch Way was elastic, and had been stretched that day by an evil genius to it limit, but the gate was passed on the stroke of .time, and 1 was left with just my impressions of a well- spent lunch hour. 


    He has had his lunch and is walking from what is now the Alcatel factory - which was then Telcon. You could then of course get straight onto the riverside path from the factory - unlike now when you are blocked by B*****s.  Monarch is of course a cable ship waiting at Enderbys to be loaded and set off.  He is going towards Greenwich, past Pipers, Lovells  - he mentions Providence wharf, which was inland and I don't know why it was murky.

    On to Ballast Quay - with what was still then The Union Tavern.  I don't also know what the scaffolding he mentions round the Power Station is  - I have never heard that it was bombed?? The junk yard is, I guess, Anchor Iron Wharf with the Robinson scrap business.

    Then round and back via Trafalgar Road.  Woolworths was what is now the AldLife Charity Shop - it has had an extra floor added but if you look up you will see along the roof line the remains of a classic Woolworth's frontage - perhaps someone could confirm if it had a clock on it?

    - oh - and - the pictures are tiny on the original - I know you will think they are too small - but I have actually enlarged them

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    The account below is taken from the South Met. Gas Company House magazine - Co-partnership Journal.  As you will see it is about someone who started work as East Greenwich Gas Works was being built - followed by some stories of the 1889 gas workers strike.  I have put some notes at the end about some of the things described


    When I started work at East Greenwich, in the first week in 1884, various works had been built on the river bank and a road made for the convenience of people travelling to and fro. On the eastern side of this road were market gardens of poor quality, divided and drained by numerous ditches. It was this ground which the Company bought for the erection of their new works.  
    Ordnance drawdock in the 1980s

    Towards the end of 1883 John Stradling was sent as foreman to direct the operations.  A footpath which skirted the whole of the river bank and had been used by the public for generations, had to be diverted and from the "Pilot" public-house to the "Ferry Arms" a short new road was made by us on the Company's land. A draw-dock (near where the station meters now are) was cleared away, and a new dock made by us near Ordnance Wharf (1) also a boundary wall was commenced.
    Our chief difficulty at that time was caused by waterside people insisting on a right-of-way over the old paths which we had not yet removed so we placed a man to divert this traffic; but it was necessary on several occasions to send a gang of men to his assistance. The difficulty, however, was removed as time went on.  

    Jioseph Tysoe
    The first engineer was Mr. Ridings, who had an office in Blakeley Buildings (2); but when the first retort house neared completion, and retort settings were to be erected, Mr. Tysoe came and took charge. In August, 1887 gas was first made.  

    George Livesey
    We had many trials and troubles at the start, but these were gradually surmounted.  In 1889 came the trouble with the Gas Workers' Union, and in the second week of December the strike began.(3)  An efficient force of police was present, and the strikers were escorted from the works, after having piled chairs and seats in the centre of No. 1 Retort House lobby and set fire to them. The fire was soon extinguished. Outside the works on a small mound near the “Pilot “public-house an effigy of Mr. George Livesey (4)  was burnt by the strikers.   

    We fed and housed the new men, many of whom were unaccustomed to the work, and some of whom were unsuited to it. In a very short time we had them graded, and began to make headway. When the gasholder began to rise it was  rumoured by the strikers that we were filling it up with air. They  tried to increase the demand for gas by turning on the street  lamps during the day.  
    A church service in the works for the blacklegs - replacement workers

    An incident which remains fresh in my memory after many  years is our first gasholder mishap.  The temperature was below freezing point, and a keen north wind was blowing. The  water in the tank slowed no signs of freezing ; but evidently  the water in the cups on the northern, side of the holdcr had  frozen so rapidly that it escaped notice. As the holder uncuppcd  the lift canted towards the south, and with a jerk the other side  released itself, parting a scam in so doing. Half an hour after-  wards a strong smell of gas was reported on the southern side  of the holder, and about the same time it was noticed that the  holder was descending at a greater rate than the normal consumption would account for. There being no other holder, very  little could be done, and it grounded. The lesson of the mishap  was so well learned that a second has never occurred.  

    The nature of the work and the hours of working have changed  considerably since those early days. At that time one of the most  important figures on the works was the scoop driver, who needed  strength, skill and endurance in a high degree.  Although the chief business of the works has been the manufacture of gas, it has been necessary to employ men of many  trades, and the works have been beneficial to the town of Greenwich  by finding employment for so many men. Many things have  happened since I started at East Greenwich. Many old friends  have gone, and but few remain. It is good to look back over the  years, and to feel satisfaction at having done a man's work among  good men.  I should like to record my grateful thanks to my old friends, both in the office and the works, for the help      


    (1) This new drawdock - essentially planning gain because it had been insisted on by the local authority - is now Ordnance Drawdock, at the far end of Blackwall Lane by the hotel, and still a public right of way despite scary notices from the hotel telling you the area is private.

    (2) Blakeley Buildings were at the end of Blackwall Lane - people might remember two 1940s houses on the same site, demolished a couple of years ago. The Buildings, which they replaced, was an apartment block built in the 1860s for employees of the Blakeley Ordnance works and never finished. I gas company eventually finished the building and used them for staff accommodation.

    (3) The 1889 gas workers strike . See my articles:  and

    (4) George Livesey - where do I start?  The evil genius of the gas workers strike and the man who changed, regulated and modernised the gas industry.  Livesey was brought up in the Old Kent Road Gas Works, started work there at the age 14 and remained to become Company Chairman as well as becoming a national figure in the temperence movement..  A clever maverick - he was never ever what people thought he was.  Lots of entries about him - look at the index or search - in

    Holders in Blackwall Lane early 20th century

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  • 10/13/16--08:37: Telcon Shop Stewards 1954

  • Below is the shop stewards page from Greenwich taken from the Autumn 1954 Telcon House Magazine.  There were some bits in this which I couldn't read from the pdf - I hope it makes sense anyway!


    Stewards, were faced with the problem of what to do about it. As the committee lacks a George Bernard  Shaw, the task appeared likely to prove extremely difficult. One school of thought was all for leaving the page as bare as a billiard ball but this didn't seem likely to convey much to our readers so we tried another angle. "Let us make it a technical page and demonstrate our mastery of theoretical as well as practical work" we said

    What emerged was if the coaxial bearings are made to rotate in an anti- clockwise direction was in complete contradiction to the thesis laid down by the Master Mariners' Association, how would the proportion of time saved be apportioned between Management and Operators.'

    This didn't seem likely either to convey much to the average reader, and it is the floating vote that counts, so off we went on another tack, "How about a literary effort after all ?". This appealed greatly to some of us at first but, after careful discussion which produced snippets of army songs, limericks and postcards from Southend; it was thought that we might be accused of being- horror take us-highbrow.

    So, far into the night, we wrestled with the problem and eventually agreed upon the following scheme.  In each issue we shall introduce to you one of our members, commencing with our worthy Chairman. If we can we shall .comment on the problems of the workers as we see them, make a report on the activities of the Shop Stewards' Committee, and report items of interest from the various departments. One thing to be borne in mind is that this magazine is by way of being a family affair and although we shall, if necessary, offer criticism to the Management, we cannot be too controversial on this page.

    In any we can and to do settle out differences through the usual channels. Our ambition is to help to foster the family feeling within Telcon by means of these articles and to further cement the existing good relations.

    Introducing the Shop Stewards -Brother Andrews
    Bro. Andrews, known to most of us as Andy, is Chairman of the Shop Stewards' Committee. After having served during the war as an air-gunner in which capacity he travelled to many parts of the globe, including Egypt and India, he returned to   his trade of carpentry and   joined Telcon in 1949. Since   that time he has taken an   active interest in the welfare of   his fellow-workers and was   elected shop steward of his   department in 1951.

    He not only gained the confidence of his colleagues but   made a deep impression on the Shop Stewards' Committee, thereby becoming the obvious choice as successor to Bro.   Reader for the post of Chairman, when the latter resigned.   Bro. Andrews is married and has two children, a boy and a girl.   As works convener we find in him sympathy and understanding,   together with a sense of humour, which characterises the man and   helps to make him successful in this difficult role.   Chairman's Report .  The Shop Stewards' Committee is made up of all the Stewards in   Telcon, and represents several Unions. The officers are Chairman   (A.S.W.), Vice-Chairman (N.U.G.M.W.), Secretary (A.E.U.) and   (N.U.C) we try to iron out our difficulties, and problems we cannot solve ourselves   are taken by the chairman to the appropriate authority. We also contact our various Trade Union Branches for advice and information.   

    Stewards are also represented on the Production Advisory Committee. Here we can bring our views to the fountain head of   authority, and are given an understanding of the problems facing management in its business of running the factory efficiently and profitably.   

    In short we arc a link between workers and management and, within the limits or trade union policy. We have a great deal of   scope. We believe that co-operation and local negotiation are the most fruitful ways of getting satisfactory results. We do not always get our own way as we have to bow down to economic factors just as management has to do, but we think we can claim a good record of successful negotiations. We shall continue to serve   the workers to the best of our ability, remembering that without   their support, moral and financial, we, as a committee, shall perish.   

    Committee Announcements

    Lectures in Economics .   Management has accepted the recommendation of the Production Advisory Committee and has arranged a series of lectures   dealing with basic economies. These will begin in October. We   ask all workers to attend and acquaint themselves with the vital problems concerning our everyday lives.   

    Shop Stewards' Fund .  The Committee earnestly request continuous and increasing   support to their fund in the customary manner. It is important   to have a reasonable capital to maintain the service we strive to render to all members.   

    Tinfoil   The management has placed a box by the main gate for the collection of tinfoil. It is hoped that all workers will co-operate in this work as the proceeds will go to the Cancer Research Fund or other   deserving charity.   

    Management and Labour Relations   There have been, and no doubt will be, millions of words spoken and written on this very controversial subject, and we often hear or read of the causes of industrial strife, as well as the proposed   remedies for them.   

    Will there ever be a way to industrial peace? Why do some industries have more labour troubles than others? These questions always come up for discussion at some time or another, both in   managerial and trade union circles

    Each and every one of us in the Telcon organisation should give some serious thought to this problem, because the state of Management-Labour relation depends upon us all. The better this relationship, the better the chance of the Telcon organisation  becoming more prosperous to the ultimate benefit of all concerned.   There is no set formula or code laid down, nor can there be for solving automatically all the problems at one sweep but there are several points which should be considered and which would, in our opinion, make for sound Management-Labour relations.   
    At Telcon this relationship is in a fairly healthy condition.   Serious disputes do not arise, as we have our various agreements.  We have our Welfare and   Personnel Department and a very capable Personnel Officer, ready to hear our troubles be they personal, domestic, legal, Management and Labour, or what have you, and to help and advise us regarding   them. Several other committees meet regularly, namely the Departmental Production Committees, Foremen's Committee,  Staff Association Council, Shop Stewards' Committee, Sports and Sick Club Committees. All this contributes towards the good relations between Management and Labour, but have we reached the criterion? What can be done in industry to make for really permanently peaceful Management and Labour relations?   

    There are several points upon which we shall comment in the Shop Stewards' Page of subsequent issues of this our House Magazine at Telcon, chiefly under the following headings:-   

    1 Should management accept the unions as permanent institutions having a positive value to industry and industrial   relations?   
    2. Should careful consideration be given to human relations and brains and money devoted to a tip-top Personnel Department?    
    3, Should Trade Unions be responsible to the rank and file of workers and management accept and recognise this position?   
    4. Should Management and Unions be in close communication   ready to discuss anything any time anywhere?   
    5. Should Management and Unions seek a way to accommodate differences and try to settle, differences or problems   on their merits as they arise with union officials taken into   confidence on all problems?   

    We think these points will give enough material. and food for thought and we hope our forthcoming comments will at least make interesting reading.       

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  • 10/16/16--03:56: History of Avery Hill Park

    by Bee Twidale

    Avery Hill is a unique park where you can walk and enjoy a cross section of time! The earliest evidence of human activity is a Mesolithic flint tool found by a 1stRoyal Eltham Scout taking part in a Young Friends of Avery Hill Park tree planting.

    The rugby field and the others around it have medieval origins. After the Norman Conquest the land was gifted to the King’s brother, Bishop Odo. Most of the land was crown property until the nineteenth century. There are records from 1290 of  King Edward buying hay to feed the starving deer at Eltham Palace, from John De Henley; owner of the fields at that time. The wild flower meadow, Henley’s field, is named after him. The Hedgerows are the oldest in Greenwich; the earliest dating back to the 1370’s

    There is a Tudor conduit in the North Westcorner of the park. This ancient building supplied fresh water to ElthamPalace. In Elizabethan times Ann Twist, Mistress of the Royal Laundry to Elizabeth 1st; owned the fields at Avery Hill. Next time you see pictures of fancy Elizabethan neck ruffs, think of Ann Twist!

    In the 19th century the first mansions were built at Avery Hill.

    The sugar magnate James Boyd developed the parkland and planted most of the fine specimen trees. Colonel John Thomas North, the nitrate king of the 1890’s, developed the Winter Garden, the Italianate Garden and much of the parkland as you see it today. Colonel North’s death notice in the New York Times (6.4.1896) reported; “Colonel North had a mansion in the outskirts of Eltham, in Kent, which was sumptuous and hospitable. Avery Hill is as celebrated in Englandas Walpole’s Strawberry Hill was.”

    London County Council purchased Avery Hill in the early 20th century and established Avery Hill Teachers’ TrainingCollege; now part of GreenwichUniversity.

    AveryHillPark has a strong sporting tradition, the LCC organised Polo matches in the 1920’s. Now you can enjoy cricket, football, rugby, basket ball, table tennis, boules and the fitness equipment; much of this financed by the Olympic Legacy fund and the Mayor of London’s “Help a London Park” grant. The mayor’s grant of £400K stimulated the Young Friends of Averyhill Park to design their own park features; a project supported by GreenwichUniversity and Avery Hill Youth Club. More about Young Friends later!

    Responding to the initiative set up by GreenwichParks and Open Spaces; Friends of Avery Hill Park began in February 2007 led by Steve Hull. Their first big initiative was to fill the gap left by the park café (torched by an arson attack in 2005) with a “Container Café”. At this time tagging was rife in the park and the container was a prime target. With grant funding; Averyhill Youth Club and other local teenagers designed and painted a mural on the container café, problem solved! The Friends group went on to play a major part in the rebuilding of the eco-friendly, design award winning café. They have run many successful summer “Parks Fests” centred around the café and performance area.

    The Young Friends, supported by the local Primary and Secondary Schools, Youth Club and Scouts and Guides have also been busy since 2007 conducting an accessibility survey for wheelchair users. Also finding their green fingers planting crocus & daffodils, snowdrop and bluebell bulbs. The adult friends’ group initiated a survey which led to the Young Friends choosing to design and build a wildflower maze and turf seat funded by a Greenwich Pride grant. By 2009 60 teenagers and 40 primary age children had planted 2K native species bulbs and 1K tree whips and completed a Tree Girth/Age survey.

    2010 saw the centenary of Girl Guiding and the local Eltham young women pulled out the stops to enhance Henley’s wildflower meadow with 100 cowslip and primrose plugs & 1K wild daffodil and snowdrop bulbs. Inspired by the Mayor’s “Help a London Park” £400K grant; a team of 12 & 13 year olds from 3rd New Eltham Guides and a Scout from 40th Greenwich  worked with Greenwich Uni. Architecture lecturers and students to produce sketches and models of their “blue sky” designs for the park. These were put on display in the Winter Garden for the Green Chain festival. Heather Yedigaroff of Greenwich Council entered these young people for the “Green Guardian” awards. Amazingly the Guide team came 2nd; they lost out to professional architects from Hyde Housing for the Green Concept award! The Scout was awarded “Young Guardian of the Year”. The team of 12 & 13 year old Guides went on to design and build a balcony garden at Hampton Court Flower show.

    2013 saw Averyhill Winter-Garden heating system fail. The friends group supported the universities bid for lottery funding and the uni. gardeners by lending garden fleece to protect the most delicate plants until the heating could be restored. The canary island date palm is the largest in the UK.

    In 2015 GreenwichUniversityput the Mansion Site up for sale, deeming it no longer fit for purpose. The Uni had plans for the building to be converted for Academy use. The Friends group instigated Tree Protection Orders being placed on the Winter-Garden trees and significant trees on the Mansion campus. To date, 2016, no buyer has been found.

    In the past 2 years the friends’ group has encouraged GreenwichParksand Open Spaces to clear Pippenhall Farm, our local Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, of massive Bramble overgrowth on the medieval Ridge and Furrow and also 1K square metres of Japanese Knotweed. A new tenant has been found. With ponies grazing once again, Narrow Leaved Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Knapweed, Fleabane, Corky Fruited Water Dropwort and Yellow Bartsia; some of the rarer wildflowers, have begun to re-emerge. Currently Friends of Avery Hill Park are seeking funds to restore the Italianate terrace garden. The design is well underway………watch this space!

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    In the extract from a 1957 Telcon Magazine below the cable company works with the Jodrell Bank observatory - although everyone knows now that the underwater cables round the world get our international messages into our computers and phones much faster than any satellite can.  The picture is that which was with the original article

    The radio telescope at Jodrell Bank seen from the control room       

    Some of our readers mav have heard or read a short announcement on October 9 that the new astronomical telescope nearing completion at Jodrell Bank was being erected against time in order to study the movements of the Russian satellite, which at that time was feared might be falling rapidly to earth. The announcement said, amongst other things, that the telescope could not operate until some cable was obtained.

    Meanwhile, a little drama was being played at Telcon, Greenwich, where, just as the hooter was blowing for lunch an urgent message was received asking us to supply some of our high frequency cable. By 2 o'clock, three drums of cable weighing nearly half a ton had been extracted from our drum field and battened up ready for dispatch,only awaiting instructions as to precisely where they should be sent. During the course of the afternoon the Observatory asked us to route the cable to Crewe instead of Manchester, and later on during the same evening we bad a telephone call to say that our cable was safely on site!

    Pretty good work!

    It is gratifying to record that a message of congratulation was sent to us from the Observatory authorities thanking us for our prompt service.

    Telcon Magazine Christmas 1957

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  • 10/21/16--02:58: Telcon plastics

  • Ad from 1958 - when we made plastics too

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  • 10/28/16--04:54: More notes and news
  • Note from the East London Waterways Group -
    This is about the London Chest Hospital in Hackney (neither industrial and north of the river as well, sorry about that).   Anyway they are concerned that it is being considered for listing but that this is being opposed by a developer and there seems to be some confusion about what is happening.  They say that of course the 395 promised homes are important but so is architectural quality and clarity about objectives.  I am afraid that the Group sends all this out by email - try

    Note from our local pottery  -  Liza will be exibiting at the Oxford Ceramics Fair St.Edward's School, Woodstock Road, Oxford. 29th/30th October 10-5.30. Tickets can be bought at the door.

    Your Devoted Frank - Greenwich Heritage Trust are putting on this event where you will hear Frank's story from the trenches of the Great War in his letters to his sweetheart.  11th November 7 pm   £8 via eventbrite or Charlton House office.

    Docklands History Group are putting out a call for Thames shipbuilding papers for a conference in May 2018.

    Blackheath Scientific Society - programme - all held at Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road,  (think its 7.30)
    18th November - Adam Masters Future Missions to Mars and Uranus
    16th December - AGM and short talks by members
    20th January     - Monica Marinescu Advances in Battery Technology
    17th February   - Maria-Magdalena Titirici
    17th March       - Christopher Mazur  Driverless Cars
    21st April         -  Alvaro Mata - Designing and Manipulating Molecules for Tissue Engineering and                                Regenerative Medicine
    19th May          -  Bioengineering and its Impact on Society

    Heritage Ironworks Seminar
    11th November 9.30-4.30 National Maritime Museum, Ferrous Metals in Heritage Ironwork
    £45 including lunch. by - er - today

    Time Out - best public sculptures in London,  Our area has so many winners in the top ten London sculptures that I think the judges must be locals???

    So - from the bottom of the list to the top.....................

    15 - was ArcelorMittal Orbit - that's the curly red thing on the Olympic Park - and, well you can see it from Greenwich and it is rumoured that Amish Kapoor has a studio down on Morden Wharf, So its almost ours,

    14  Royal Artillery Monument. This is in Hyde Park - but - again - hey ho - the Royal Artillery were founded in Woolwich and were still here a very few years ago. So we can count that as ours too.

    12 - Richard Wilson - Slice of Reality.  this is the slice of ship down round the back of the Dome. Very much deserves to be better known.

    6 Anthony Gormley. Quantum Cloud. That's the thing made of lots of sticks just off the QE pier near the Dome. If you look at it sideways it turns into a man,  Very good indeed.

    3  Alex Chinneck - A Bullet from a Shooting Star - this is the upside down electricity pylon near the Dome.  Easily the best thing around locally on the arts scene. Terrific. I'd have put it at No.1. double star.

    2. Yinka Shonibare Nelson's Ship in a Bottle. This is along Romney Road outside the National Maritime Museum. Ok if you like that sort of thing

    Top at No.1. are the prehistoric monsters at Crystal Palace - sadly not ours but still in South London. Well worth a nice afternoon in the park.

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  • 10/28/16--04:54: More notes and news
    we have been sent a copy for review of this book by Bill Cakebread. Which traces the history of Matchless and the Collier family from start to finish
    Don't say - who were Matchless??  Two things - one is that on the day the iron curtain lifted itself up enough to let a few people through - the first visitors to the Woolwich from the just freed Eastern bloc were a group of Czech bikers - why?? they had come to see where Matchless were made.   The second is that 'these wonderful machines' are now being made in replica - but, sadly, not in Plumstead.  Associated Motor Cycles - their proper name - were based in Maxey Road and there is apparently not a stone left of their works. They were run by the Collier family whose young men advertised the works by winning race after race after race in the 1930s.

    Book is available from  £12 plus £2.50 post and packing

    Note from the East London Waterways Group -
    This is about the London Chest Hospital in Hackney (neither industrial and north of the river as well, sorry about that).   Anyway they are concerned that it is being considered for listing but that this is being opposed by a developer and there seems to be some confusion about what is happening.  They say that of course the 395 promised homes are important but so is architectural quality and clarity about objectives.  I am afraid that the Group sends all this out by email - try

    Note from our local pottery  -  Liza will be exibiting at the Oxford Ceramics Fair St.Edward's School, Woodstock Road, Oxford. 29th/30th October 10-5.30. Tickets can be bought at the door.

    Your Devoted Frank - Greenwich Heritage Trust are putting on this event where you will hear Frank's story from the trenches of the Great War in his letters to his sweetheart.  11th November 7 pm   £8 via eventbrite or Charlton House office.

    Docklands History Group are putting out a call for Thames shipbuilding papers for a conference in May 2018.

    Blackheath Scientific Society - programme - all held at Mycenae House, 90 Mycenae Road,  (think its 7.30)
    18th November - Adam Masters Future Missions to Mars and Uranus
    16th December - AGM and short talks by members
    20th January     - Monica Marinescu Advances in Battery Technology
    17th February   - Maria-Magdalena Titirici
    17th March       - Christopher Mazur  Driverless Cars
    21st April         -  Alvaro Mata - Designing and Manipulating Molecules for Tissue Engineering and                                Regenerative Medicine
    19th May          -  Bioengineering and its Impact on Society

    Heritage Ironworks Seminar
    11th November 9.30-4.30 National Maritime Museum, Ferrous Metals in Heritage Ironwork
    £45 including lunch. by - er - today

    Time Out - best public sculptures in London,  Our area has so many winners in the top ten London sculptures that I think the judges must be locals???

    So - from the bottom of the list to the top.....................

    15 - was ArcelorMittal Orbit - that's the curly red thing on the Olympic Park - and, well you can see it from Greenwich and it is rumoured that Amish Kapoor has a studio down on Morden Wharf, So its almost ours,

    14  Royal Artillery Monument. This is in Hyde Park - but - again - hey ho - the Royal Artillery were founded in Woolwich and were still here a very few years ago. So we can count that as ours too.

    12 - Richard Wilson - Slice of Reality.  this is the slice of ship down round the back of the Dome. Very much deserves to be better known.

    6 Anthony Gormley. Quantum Cloud. That's the thing made of lots of sticks just off the QE pier near the Dome. If you look at it sideways it turns into a man,  Very good indeed.

    3  Alex Chinneck - A Bullet from a Shooting Star - this is the upside down electricity pylon near the Dome.  Easily the best thing around locally on the arts scene. Terrific. I'd have put it at No.1. double star.

    2. Yinka Shonibare Nelson's Ship in a Bottle. This is along Romney Road outside the National Maritime Museum. Ok if you like that sort of thing

    Top at No.1. are the prehistoric monsters at Crystal Palace - sadly not ours but still in South London. Well worth a nice afternoon in the park.

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    • 15th November Mark Stevenson  - Mark is the Historic England officers for THIS area. He will talk about current site investigations in Greenwich and Woolwich.  
    • Please come along and show him that we care.  Age Exchange Bakehouse. 7 for 7.30

    MATCHLESS - some bits of my note about Bill Cakebread's new book on the Plumstead Motor bikes and the Collier family were definitely missing from the last posting (someone came to the door!). The book carries on with a lot of detail about the Plumstead Maxey Road works- and how it went from, in the mid-50s as 'the best equipped motor cycle factory in the world' to find themselves losing races and closure in 1969.  The reason - perhaps I am my then boyfriend were typical - he sold his small Norton and bought a Honda 50, and quite honestly was much too frightened of the big bikes to take one on.

    I was at the White Webbs Transport Museum this weekend - and the two Matchless machines  are in pride of place as soon as you walk in - no intepretation on them - if they are Matchless you are supposed to know and admire them. The trouble is that I suspect Plumstead generally has completely forgotten - and like everyone else think that motor bikes were made in the Midlands.

    Some links to Matchless today:

    - AND - PS - going down the old A20 and I see that Farningham Hill is back to its old name and no long "Death Hill"- when the boys on the big bikes used to go down to it to the ton, round the roundabout and - either back a hero, or dead.

    So - Bill Cakebread, The Matchless Colliers. £12 per copy plus £2.50 p&p


    So -
    John Phillips from FOGWOFT writes about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

    "We've been puzzled for some time by the narrowed and reinforced  section of the Greenwich tunnel at its northern end. Urban myth is that it is a result of WW2 bomb damage. Turns out that this is the case. 
    We've recently received an email from Steve Hunnisett who runs , and has extensively researched bomb damage in this area, which reads as follows :

    [The damage] occurred on the night of 7th/8th September 1940 - the first night of the Blitz and known to Londoners at the time as 'Black Saturday.' The Metropolitan Borough of Poplar ARP Incident Log records four separate HE (High Explosive) bombs falling on the foreshore during that night adjacent to the tunnel, which left "Greenwich Foot Tunnel damaged and leaking." Fortunately, this occurred at low tide and temporary repairs using quick drying cement alleviated the damage up to a point, although the tunnel was immediately closed to the public. The repair that we see today involved the fitting of a 'sleeve' inside the existing structure that was reinforced with a concrete seal between the old and new structures. I understand (but do not know for certain) that the work was carried out by the LCC Flood Prevention Squad. I think that the detailed records for this work may be at London Metropolitan Archives, but I haven't gotten around to examining these yet - it's a very long list of things that I have to do!

    I am not sure how long the repairs took to undertake but the tunnel was open for business again by mid-1941 I think.

    You might be interested to know that Mick Lemmerman, in his excellent book "The Isle of Dogs During WWII" mentions this incident and tells of how some opportunist boat owners charged 2 shillings (10p) per person to ferry people off the Island immediately following the closure of the tunnel. A little later, a free ferry service was established until repairs were completed running between Johnson's Draw Dock on the Island and Greenwich Pier, with a temporary pier being built on the Island running across moored barges.

    The tunnel had a very narrow escape later in the war, when a V-1 Flying Bomb fell in Greenwich Church Street, close to the tunnel's southern entrance, which shattered all of the remaining roof glass and killed one person."

    Our thanks go to Steve for providing this information 

    (thanks John for letting me reproduce this)


    The picture above has been exercising the keen researchers in the Enderby Group more than a bit.  Its of John Pender who they are very keen to see memoralised at Enderby Wharf.  We've already published a piece on Pender and why we should remember him.  See below

     It all began with another different and earlier portrait and a tweet by The Telegraph Museum
    - and which Allan Green circulated to the Enderby Group. It was picked up by Stewart Ash who intepreted it as follows

    "This picture is of the current Lord Pender with the replacement portrait of John Pender by Hubert von Herkomer (1845-1914).  The first version of this was presented to Lady Emma Pender (in her absence) at a banquet to honour John Pender at the Hotel Métropole on 23rd April 1888.  The banquet was to celebrate him finally being recognised by the British establishment through receiving a KCMG.   John Pender thanked the assembled dignitaries for the gift, assuring them that his wife would like it.  However, when Emma saw the original she was not happy and wrote to Herkomer expressing her displeasure.   He was force to take the original back and make a second attempt.  The replacement portrait was delivered to Lady Emma at Foots Cray Place in January 1990 and was much more to Lady Emma’s liking.  As far as I know there are no images of the original portrait'.

    So - what about this disliked original?  Stewart followed it up - and found it - in Wick!!

    "I have been doing some further research into the Herkomer painting.  I did not believe that the original had survived Lady Emma’s rejection.  However, I asked Kevin Summers, the editor of SubTel Forum ... and he sent me a jpg. ....................I checked this and is a portrait of Sir John Pender by Hubert von Herkomer and ..........I have now established that this portrait hangs in the Town Hall in Wick, in the very north of Scotland.  John Pender was MP for Wick Burgh between 1872-85 and from 1892 until his death in 1896.  There is no information on who presented the portrait to Wick or when, so there is another small mystery to unravel.

    Incidentally I can see why Lady Emma preferred the second version!"



    There is to be a Thames River Crossings Conference on 13th May next year - details will be around later. BUT I can reveal that the very last paper of the day will be Ian and me, from FOGWOFT, doing a bit, not just on the foot tunnels but on the London County Council tunnels (Blackwall, and Rotherhithe as well) as FREE river crossings for the people of east London.

    In September the Group heard a speaker on the Massey Shaw - Massey was of particular interest in Greenwich since she was berthed here until developers arrived and she had to move on.  She was a London Fire Brigade fire float with Greenwich made Merryweather pumps - she fought the terrible dockland fires of the Blitz and played a major part in bringing men back from Dunkirk - and has sometime led the memorial flotillas.  Most of the talk was about her restoration in Gloucester and we hope to reproduce some of this here.  Sadly they say that new fire floats are being built in Canada rather than on the Thames (once the biggest shipbuilder in the world).

    The October speaker was about barge carrier systems - most of the ports we have which can handle these are downriver these days. Again we could reproduce some of this talk, once I ask Sally for permission. 

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  • 11/10/16--07:48: More news and more notes

    Speaker Mark Stevenson Historic England. Mark is our local Archaeology Advisor - he is going to talk about current site work but will also answer your questions

    Age Exchange Bakehouse, Bennett Park (rear of Age Exchange shop in The Village) 7.30 15th November

    Meanwhile - here are some other bits and pieces.....................

    Docklands History Group

    This is their current programe

    7th December Christmas Social and Evening Talk. Des Pawson. Discovering a Lost Thames Pierhead Painter By
    1st February  Derek Morris. Recent Research on Sailortown and the London Docks.
    1st March. Jim Lewis. London's Lea Valley - Britain's Best Kept Secret
    5th April. John Window. My years on the River
    3rd May  Christopher Bull. Forgotten Parish of Denton
    7th June  Hannah Melissa Stockton. Oars, Oars, Sculls, Scullts., Constructing the Thames Watermen in the Eighteenth Century
    5th July AGM and Chris Elmers. The Hempen Jig. The Story of Execution Dock
    2nd August - walk with Diane Burstein Refugees, Railway, a River and a Ram  Historic Wandsworth
    6th September - Elizabeth Wiggams, An Archivists View of Morden College
    4th October. Edward Sargeant. Blockade Running in the American Civil War with special reference to London Built Ships
    1st November. Stephen Humphery. A History of Maritime Rotherhithe - from Hoys to Cunarders.

    We are also asked to advertise the Thames Crossing Conference  on 13th May. Details of how to book will be on the DHG web site in the new year.

    Also in the DHG mailout is a report of a paper given to the Group by Chris Ellmers on Industrial Discontent in Thames Shipyards 1795-1802. ---

    ..... it has been known for a long time that despite Trade Union histories which put the birth of organised labour disputes into the mid to late 19th century, that there was a lot going on before that. And that the dock yards and shipwrights were a particularly active bunch.  Chris gave a lot of detail about organisations in the Deptford and Rotherhithe areas - one book published in 1802 by a Deptford worker countered the press's view of such disputes. Chris quoted advertisements in The Kentish Mercury from 1795 which indicate an ongoing dispute in some of South London's private shipyards.  There were petitions against pay cuts in 1802 and 100 strike breaking workers were sent to Deptford from Chatham and there w ere a number of demonstrations - these included striking caulkers who were met by 100  constables outside Barnard's Deptford Yard.


    We have a note to say that in Thamesmeads a Friends of Tump 53 is being set up - these Tumps were ammunition stores which have now been made into facilities on Thamesmead  This one is a nature reserve but includes a very serviceable building.



    A new book has been published by the Rotherthithe based Brunel Project.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Eastern is probably his best known boat and very relevant to us here in Greenwich. When she was launched in 1858 she was the biggest ship ever  and designed to reach Australia without refuelling with 4000 passengers.  She was built within the sight of Greenwich - and the magnificent painting reproduced as a frontispiece in this new book shows her with Greenwich Hospital as a background. For many years a sign painted on the river wall advertised the site of her building and launch. It was removed by the London Docklands Development Corporation and never - very sadly - never replaced.
    Great Eastern has been often written about as a complete folly and embarrassment but in fact she was an enormous success to yet another Greenwich based project - the Atlantic Cable. Sadly, although the book talks about her stunning success as a cable layer, it fails to mention our own Enderby Wharf - - oh dear!  With that omission however it is still a very detailed account of Great Eastern's building, launch and career on the high seas - to her eventual breaking up on the Mersey.

    I have no details as to where to get this book or anything. I think it is £10 and it is probably available from  The Brunel Museum,  Railway Ave, Rotherhithe, London SE16 4LF

    The Museum has also produced a book about Marc Brunel's Tunnel - but I have no details on that


    The (National) Industrial Archaeology News features our newest Greenwich power plant in its new edition (179 Winter 2016).  This is in an article by Robert Carr on 'Old Chimneys - New Flues'. He says 

    "Nearing completion off Millennium Way on the Greenwich Peninsula in London, the new Low Carbon Energy Centre will serve the largest newly-built residential district heating system in 

    Europe. Designed by architects c.F. Mol1er, this power station has a flue stack 49 metres high. The stack is now enveloped in perforated, folded  panels of brushed aluminium, a creation by artist Conrad Shawcross called The Optic Cloak.  Compared with the original design for a monolithic 600 tonne steel box, this new artwork is claimed to reduce the weight of the stack's frame by 40%, and a moire effect creates transparency'.  The photograph, taken in August 2016, shows the cladding of the flue stack nearing completion. The idea is to replace an 'eyesore', a chimney, with a beautiful art work which will enhance people's lives. 
    As it is situated next to the southern approach road for the Blackwall  Tunnel, large numbers of people pass close to this new flue every day. The Optic Cloak certainly makes clear that dramatic things are happening  on the Greenwich Peninsula. 
    The new Energy Centre will have a capacity of 87 MW. Its construction was partly financed  from the European Union Regional Development 

    (we haven't reproduced the photo - copyright reasons - but you all know what it looks like anyway)

    AIA have also reproduced a short note about the new historical plaque about the foot tunnel.

    Also sent from AIA with their mailout is a copy of Barrie Trinder's The Industrial Archaeology of Shropshire.  This is a very very good book and a great read.  I know its not about Greenwich - or London, come to that. It have heard it said about Barrie Trinder that he hated London so much that he never mentioned it in his books. But, that as may be, he was very very good about Shropshire..


    Another book which has turned up is 'The other side of Airfix' by Arthur Wood. Now I remember well, as most of us will, the giant word 'AIRFIX' spelt out giant letter by giant letter across the side of their factory down the road.  I was therefore very disappointed to find only one short reference in the book to their Charlton works. And that is inaccurate because they say "Airfix used an old London County Council trolleybus repair depot in Charlton..,,.. this has now disappeared as part of the redevelopment of the Greenwich Peninsula'. Well yes - it was in THE LCC tram depot but I would very much dispute that that was on the Greenwich Peninsula - in fact the site is now a trading estate running on the east side of the Angerstein Line, and that is definitely Charlton. I also suspect that there are some remains on the site, albeit of the trams, not Airfix.
    So - has anyone got any information about what Airfix actually did there????


    and for a final gastronmic note

    "one of their (Lyons caterers) most important (private banquets) was the banquet given to His Excellency Li Chung Tang a diplomat in the service of the Emperor of China on 11th August 1896 when he visited the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company works at Enderby Wharf on the River Thames. With the Marquis of Tweedsdale just 141 Admirals, Vice Admirals and other important guests sat down for a six course lunch which started two hours late due to the late arrival of Li Chung Tang.

    from Bird The First Food Empire A History of J.Lyons & Co


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    History of the Charlton Ropeworks
    By John Yeardley

    Frost Brothers Ltd.
    According to a catalogue of 1906, this business was established in 1790 with a factory in Commercial Road. At that time there were many ropewalks in East London as can be seen from the old maps of the area. Plans at Tower Hamlets Library show the existence in 1703 of a ropewalk on what was to be the Frost site at Sun Tavern Fields in the parish of St. Georges in the East, between Swan Street (now Cable Street) and White Horse Lane, running into Hangman’s Acre (now Commercial Road)

    A later map of 1791 clearly shows a wider rope walk on the same site between King David’s Lane (now Cable Street) and White Horse Lane running into Dorans Row (now Commercial Road) Street plans for this date show the existence of the Frost family house at the King David’s Lane end of this ropewalk. (The family later moved to a house on Bromley common in Kent.) The surrounding area was being rapidly developed as can be seen from the map of the same site in 1819 andaround 1836 the Blackwall Railway Company built a viaduct over the factory. The factory was destroyed by fire in 1860 and rebuilt on the same site the following year.

    Before the 1860 fire
    In 1874 the company, using a machine to Chapman’s patent design of 1797, created a world record by supplying a 10,000 fathom (over 11 miles) continuous length of 61/2 inch circumference rope to Siemens Brothers.



    Before the1860 fire


    In 1892 the company was producing 40 tonnes of rope per week but by 1906 the output had risen to 120 tonnes using fibres such as manila, Russian, Italian and Indian hemp, coir and sisal.

    A limited amount of electric power was introduced into the factory in 1900 but it was soon realised that in order to expand the business further, it would be necessary to move to a new site. The existing steam and gas engines, although trouble free, were designed to be used with multi-storey buildings, and involved not only a great deal of line shafting but also the employment of extra lift operators and additional indirect labour. The factory covered 7 acres and consumed 600 HP.

    The move to Charlton
    Faced with the prospect of substantial new business from the North German Lloyd Shipping Line James Frost found the ideal green field site for expansion in Anchor and Hope Lane, Charlton in 1913 comprising 17 acres of land complete with wharfage which he purchased for £20,000 and sub-let to the newly formed Charlton Rope Works Ltd.

    original plans 1914

    The new factory was equipped with latest fibre processing machinery and new ropewalk layouts and was designed to produce 9000 tonnes of rope and 3000 tonnes of twine per annum – more than double the output of Frost Brothers old factory. In the event only one third of the planned ropewalks were ever installed.

    When war broke out in 1914 the Frost Brothers output was put at the disposal of the government and much commercial business was lost.

    The Charlton foundation stone was laid on the 9th November 1914 and the mill started production in 1915. There was a delay in the delivery of the ropewalk plant and in 1915 the War Office commandeered this building and used it to store aircraft parts until 1920 but the mill continued to rope spin yarn both for Frost brothers and other London ropemakers

    Charlton Factory 1960
    After the war with business declining in the 1920s the company looked to combine with others to seek economies of scale and eventually in 1925, joined a group of mainly wire rope companies called British Ropes Limited.

    Shortly afterwards the small London factory of J.T. Davis and the Falmouth plant of John Stevens were closed and the work transferred to Charlton. The site subsequently absorbed several other factories as production was consolidated there most notably from the old Edinburgh Roperie and Sailcloth Company factory in Leith in 1960, the London Spinning Company in 1967 and the offshore oil business of the Samson Cordage Company of Boston Massachusetts in 1988.

    Bales of raw material, primarily sisal from East Africa and manila from The Philippines, were unloaded from the company jetty on the Thames and transported via the company railway to the hemp store. From there the bales would be moved as required into the mill for the fibre to be combed and spun into rope yarn. The bobbins of yarn would be transferred to the ropewalk to be formed into strands and then rope which would be wound into coils on an overhead coiling bank before being moved into the rope store for splicing and packing. The finished product would then leave the premises through the main gate into Anchor and Hope Lane.

    Over the years the production process changed with advances in materials, machinery and markets.
    The railway engines from the jetty to the rope store were at some point replaced by motor tractors, then in the 1970’s the jetty fell into disuse as it became cheaper to receive and tranship the raw fibre in the North East of England and transport to Charlton by road than to use the London docks.

    A rigging shop was constructed to facilitate cutting and splicing of wire ropes.  Many more buildings were added over the years as the site expanded

    Modern, highly efficient, and compact rope making machines gradually replaced the ropewalk which eventually closed altogether in 1980.

    The advent of synthetic fibres brought about many changes. Machine to make fine braids were installed and skilled operators from local cable manufacturers were recruited to run them.Ropes and braids in a variety of colours, not least khaki for the army and royal blue for the royal yacht Britannia, were required and so a dye house was added.

    Mechanical testing became more and more important and physical and chemical laboratories were established.

    Reductions in crew numbers on sea going vessels led to the development of large diameter plaited ropes and machines to make these were installed in the 1960’s followed by huge Braiding machines capable of producing ropes up to 240mm in diameter with breaking strengths up to 1200 tonnes to meet the requirements of the worldwide offshore oil industry.

    Nylon fibre became available during the Second World War and British Ropes used it to make parachute cords and sophisticated high strength ropes such as the glider tow ropes used in the Arnhem landings and the ropes incorporating communication cables for the submarine attacks in the Norwegian fjords. They also made the huge nets used as emergency arrester gear to allow damaged aircraft to land on airfields and aircraft carriers.

    These technologies led after the war to the development of a multitude of new products from mountaineering ropes to industrial webbing slings.

    The site was not only involved in manufacturing and testing but housed the sales offices for industrial, marine and offshore oil products. At its height over 450 people were employed. To cater for these employees the site had a canteen complex with several dining rooms and changing facilities for sporting activities. It had tennis and netball courts, football and cricket pitches and a very active sports and social club.

    The workforce was generally drawn from the local area but the various amalgamations brought with them employees from other companies and parts of the country such as Edinburgh, Cardiff, Birmingham, Doncaster and Newcastle. As the local population changed so did the mix of people with a growing number of employees from the Indian sub-continent.

    As developments accelerated in raw materials, manufacturing processes and markets in the second half of the 20th century the Charlton site remained at the forefront of the fibre rope industry. It was the site of the company’s technical centre and export sales department, pioneering new materials such as Kevlar and Dyneema, extruding sophisticated polymers and installing the largest rope machines in the industry. Its employees played a major role in developing international standards and developing new applications, particularly for the Offshore Oil industry.

    Unfortunately the value of the freehold land in London close to the proposed millennium dome in Greenwich became too tempting a prize for the parent company and the site ceased operations in 1996 leaving behind a small wire rope sales operation in Erith. The site is now called “Thames Gateway” and comprises a number of small business units. The last reminder of the illustrious ropemaking history of Anchor & Hope Lane in Charlton can be seen on the wall of Macro’s car park at the junction of Anchor & Hope Lane with the Woolwich Road.

    Natural fibre spinning

    Synthetic fibre spinning

    Eight strand rope machine

    The ropewalk about 1960

    Small braiding machines

    The largest braiding machine in the world

    Technical Centre

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  • 11/21/16--04:01: News and Notes
  • First of all - thanks for everybody who is sending a fabulous amount of stuff through.  We are hardly catching up with it.  Need to be more disciplined and have a daily posting here soon, I think.


    Hardly to be seen as an industrial site - but their latest newsletter has some information about the park as a workplace.

    Their newsletter gives on its front page news about the archaeological dig at the Old Keepers Cottage. Basically they have found some walls - but hope to have an exhibition about it soon.  A handout from the park also says how they aim to reveal more of the park's history - and need the ideas and help of local people  They have a public opening meeting on 22nd November (tomorrow!!)7-9 at West Greenwich Library.


    A kind person has been sending us lots and lots of press cuttings - more on those soon.   As a taster - here is the shortest one which is from 1867. It just says that a 'salmon trout measuring 18 in in length was caught last week off Bugsby's Hole, Blackwall'. 
    from Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle  26/10/1867


    The story from FOGWOFT about the plaque on the history of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is now appearing far and wide. Latest one was the Westcombe News - but I also guess there are others we haven't seen.


    Email from a desperate family history researcher - he is asking us for help and says we are his last chance of info.  Please help him!  We can pass any info on - and a lot of what he says is very very interesting

    I have been researching my family tree and have strong Greenwich connections.  (My mother was shown a shop in Greenwich where her grandfather worked and used to make the Lord Mayor's whip for the London Lord Mayor's show every year.) I'm not sure how you can help with this query, but I'm hoping that at least you might be able to point me in the right direction.  It relates to an intriguing puzzle I have over one of my ancestors with a Greenwich connection that is possibly industry related.  I have an ancestor Ayton Hyde (m. Watts) born about 1821 and, according to 1861 census, born in Cape of Good Hope.  I am trying to find out what her father was doing in Cape of Good Hope at that time as there were few British settlers there at that time. I do know about the 1820 Settlers but Ayton's parents names are not on the list (or at least I cannot find them). Ayton's father was William Hyde (or Hide) b abt 1791. The 1842 census shows him born in Kent and living then on Ship & Billet Row, Woolwich Road, Greenwich, and his occupation was Shipwright.  He was married to Elizabeth (possibly nee Brown Deller).  Their 2nd child was born in Greenwich in 1826, indicating that they had returned from Africa by then. I suspect William Hyde might have gone to Cape of Good Hope in connection with his occupation as a shipwright.  I understand shipbuilding docks around Greenwich were closing around that time so possibly he followed the work.  I deduce he would have been in the Cape from about 1820 (or a bit earlier) till about 1825.


    Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter

    Lots of items of interest.

    --- they note the possible sell off of the last remaining Woolwich Barracks - and particularly note the now almost invisible Rotunda

    ----  they are looking for a home for a parish marker which has been recovered, by a member, from a tip! They are trying to establish where it came from.

    ----- Plumstead Common Environment Group are applying for a grant for Workhouse Wood in Plumstead.

    ---- Meantime Brewery have opened a tiny tiny tiny pub in Peninsula Square

    and something else which I hope to add soon


    Greenwich Power Station

    We understand a consultation is about to be launched about refitting this station by Transport for London as part of a district heating scheme - to cut pollution from (they say) 20,000 small boilers. This is being launched today and there will be public access via a web site
    We also understand (thanks EGRA!) that there will be meetings about this at the Forum in East Greenwich on 1st and 5th December.
    They also say they can arrange visits if any of us want to go

    This is the oldest power station in Britain - and may be in Europe - still functioning. It is a stunning building if a bit crowded out with horrid old tanks - but it is a monument to municipal public enterprise in the early 20th century - to see it with a new use is stunning!!

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    photo R.Carr

    Well - before we start this morning, here's a nice photo of a Dutch coaster at Lovell's Wharf in the 1970s


    and a couple of other things.

    Industrial Archaeology News - that's the newsletter of the national body.  Their Winter 2016 Newsletter has an article in it about New Donnington.  Now to you and me that's just some boring suburb to the north of Telford in the Midlands.  The article points out that the houses are unusual 'red brick, modern, with flat roofs' and built in the 1930s. Why?  Well the Government had built in the district a new RAOC Ordinance Depot and they were hoping people from Woolwich Arsenal would all go up there to work,. All those houses were built for people from Woolwich - it was a 'Shadow factory' - and there were several such set up.  All round the country Woolwichers and their expertise was settling into new towns or suburbs at the back of existing towns.

    The article goes on to explain that by 1980 Donnington had become the Central Ordinance Depot (COD)  one of the largest military store complexes in Europe. It is still in use and next to it is being built a new army logistics department. (just think what that would have done for local employment figures if they had stayed here!!)


    and - now - an article from the latest WADAS Newsletter (with thanks to them) - which will introduce you to Crossness

    Crossness – Past, Present and Future 
     by Mike Jones  

    Mike Jones acts as both Treasurer and Secretary of the Crossness Engines Trust.  He opened with a slide of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the man renowned for building London’s Victorian sewage system - still the basis of the 21st century system.  A major element was the Crossness Outfall Works.

    The London basin has several rivers flowing into the Thames.  In 1600 the population was about 1 million –in a close packed City slops were tossed into the road and an anglicised version of garder l’eau was shouted to those below - night soil men cleaned up.  Beyond the City sewage was seldom more than of local concern.  By 1860 the population was 3 million and spreading out; it is now 8 million and still growing.

    Sir John Harrington invented a flushing toilet for Elizabeth I but it was a lone example – and had to be reinvented by Alexander Cummings and Joseph Bramah in the late 18th century (Thomas Crapper popularised it; he did not give his name to defecation, the term was already in use, but probably useful for publicity).  London had about 200 000 cess pits by 1810.  Accelerating replacement of these with WCs caused a greatly increased demand for water (two gallons a flush).  Cholera broke out in 1831/2 – initially thought by miasmatists to be spread by foul air – and claimed 21 000 lives.  John Snow, a doctor, marked 500 cases on a map - and found they clustered round a pump in Broad Street; the only place without a case was the local brewery.  He broke the pump handle and the cholera soon vanished.

    But what sewers there were (often decrepit)were overflowing, and discharging their waste into the Thames.  A picture of the time showed a sewer outfall north of the Thames immediately opposite the intake for a south Thames water company!  Another showed Mr. Faraday paying his respects to the Thames with a visiting card – he actually tested the water with white cards to see how polluted it was – the cards could no longer be seen when an inch below the surface.  Parliament, in its still new building, was bothered by the stench and put up curtaining soaked in chloride of lime – and thought of moving to Henley.

    Parliament set up a Metropolitan Sewer Commission in 1847, but it was parish based and largely ineffective.  In 1855 they set up the Metropolitan Board of Works, with Joseph Bazalgette appointed as their Chief Engineer.  His first main task was to clear the Thames of sewage; he began in 1856 and had a detailed plan ready in 1858, at a cost of £3 million (at least £3bn now).  By 1866 much of it was complete.  This was made possible by the large number of navvies becoming available as railway mania subsided.

    He devised system with main sewers running parallel with the Thames to intercept sewers running towards it.  Sewage north of the river flowed down through three main sewers to a pumping station at Abbey Mills, where it was raised to flow the rest of the way to an outfall at Beckton.  A similar set of sewers south of the River flowed to Deptford to be pumped up to go to an outfall at Crossness.  The discharges were still of raw sewage but sufficiently far down stream to no longer affect the City

    In 1878 there was a discharge of sewage at Beckton just before the Princess Alice disaster.

    At Crossness the sewage was again pumped up for discharge at low to mid tide.  A covered, brick built, storage tank took the sewage at high tide; over it cottages for about 70 workers were built with a school and a chapel.  There was a noticeable smell attached to the outfall works, which those living there took for granted (much of London had smelly businesses) and the prevailing westerly wind took it down river.

    The main buildings at Crossness and Abbey Mills were a matter of civic pride, and highly ornate.  At Crossness these comprised the Engine House, Boiler House and Chimney.  The Engine House has external carved stone embellishments, all different, and internally the central magnificent octagonal cast iron light well.  The spectacular Chimney was demolished in 1958 when no longer in use and in poor condition after over 90 years of use.  The Boiler House originally had 12 Cornish boilers, later replaced by 8 Lancashire boilers of greater efficiency.  These powered the 4 giant Beam Engines, with their 52 ton, 28ft diameter flywheels, named: Victoria, Prince Consort, Albert Edward and Alexandra (then Prince and Princess of Wales).  To further increase efficiency and cope with growing amounts of sewage they were converted in 1899 from simple to triple expansion working.  As time went on and more sewage had to be dealt with extra buildings and more steam pumps were added. The original beam engines were kept on for storm water relief until 1953, but then retired – and the engine pits filled with a weak sand/cement mix

    In 1980 the original Engines and Buildings were Grade I listed. In 1985 the Crossness Beam Engines Preservation Group was formed, followed in 1988 by the Crossness Engines Trust to give it legal standing.  Sewage still comes to Crossness, now to the Thames Water Sewage Treatment plant. Arrangements for separate access had to be made, and health and safety issues resolved.  The Trust now has a lease with 102 years still to run.The central cast iron light well has been restored to its former glory, and of the four original beam engines the Prince Consort has been fully restored, and work on Victoria is in hand.  The Engine House still needs considerable restoration. Setting up the new exhibition is progressing –it should be open in 2017.

    A longer term project is to reinstate the narrow gauge railway besidethe main outfall sewer from Plumstead Station to the Outfall. It would be operated with the "Woolwich" locomotice and various wagons (after restroration and track installation.


    and - now - another nice picture from the 1970s.

    Photo R.Carr

    This is taken from somewhere near the outside of the Pilot Pub - in a road which was then known as Riverway and which went down to the river.  (I understand that in those days The Pilot was called ' Stage VII' by gasworks staff)

    In the foreground is an embankment carrying a railway line running roughly on the line of West Parkside. (Oh Yes!! if they had left it our transport problems would have been so much less - which some of us did point out while it was being demolished in the late 1990s) 

    The factory area behind is the Stage II Hydrocarbon Reforming Plant (lean gas - CV 310 -320 Btu) with Stage IV CRG as it was known (catalytic rich gas - CV 650 Btu). 
    In the background is Gas Holder No.1 to the left and No.2 to the right
    Thank you Brian for those details

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  • 11/24/16--09:15: Riverway - as was

  • These two pictures are of the area around The Pilot Pub.  

    photo R.Carr

    The upper of the two photographs is  from May 1980 and is looking from Blackwall Lane eastwards from a point which is probably around what is now Old School Close.

    In the picture is a street name sign which says 'River Way'. The Pilot Pub now stands in a sort of courtyard which is, still, called 'Riverway'.  At the time the picture was taken this was a road which went from this junction with Blackwall Lane (now part of Millennium Way) above to the riverside where there was a long causeway into the river - which you could walk along out into the river. 

    What we are looking at is the last gasp - if that's the right word  - of East Greenwich gas works - the Stage II Hydrocarbon Reforming Plant (lean gas - CV 310 -320 Btu) with Stage IV CRG catalytic rich gas - CV 650 Btu).  This closed around 1980.


    photo R.Carr

    The German photographer Manfred Hamm at work, East Greenwich May 1980.

    The photograph above is taken from outside the Pilot looking towards what is now West Parkside. The photographer is facing a railway bridge. Behind the railway line is the Hydrocarbon Reforming Plant - by then probably out of use.  The line is on an embankment and which came into the gas works from the Angerstein Branch Railway at a a junction in Horn Lane. The elevated building is a signal cabin.

    Although this branch of the railway went into the gas works it is understood that it was not used very much.  Coal came into the works by boat at a huge jetty on the site of the QE Pier. The railway seems to have been used mainly for byproducts leaving the works.  Perhaps someone who worked there can tell us if this is so.  

    The railway line remained while the Dome was being built in the 1990s but, rather than trains, it was used as a road for lorries going in and out of the site.

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    This is an article taken from Engineer and published when the first Blackwall Point Power Station was opened in 1900. The article is a bit long and some of it quite technical but it contains some very interesting insights into the setting up of what was a new technology - electric light - and selling it to the public.


    The Blackheath and Greenwich District Electric Light Company Limited, whose generating station and system of distribution forms the subject of this article, started life by obtaining a provisional order empowering it to supply electricity if Greenwich and Blackheath about the year 1897:  but no active steps were taken to put into operation the powers and obligations of its order until 1898.

    The London Electric Supply Corporation  had already obtained powers to supply alternating current in the Greenwich area, and the Board of Trade, in the exercise of their discretion, limited the Blackheath Company to direct current  supply throughout, but subsequently consented to allow it  to supply alternating current in that part of the district which includes Blackheath, Lea , Charlton, Kidbrook, and part of Lewisham and Eltham still reserving the original limitation as to a direct supply in Greenwich.  

    One of the terms imposed by the local authority, as being a condition of its consenting not to oppose, was that the company should within two years of the granting of the original order apply for similar powers covering a very much extended area. and embracing some small villages that could not otherwise hope to get any electric light for many years to come.  The extended area covers seventeen square miles, and lthough this company' has not applied for what is popularly described as a power Bill  such as the Tyneside, Durham,  South Lancashire and others , recently before Sir James  Kitson's Committee in the House of Commons its obligations and prospects are in many ways identical.  And the  problem it had to face was to some extent complicated by the fact that it was compelled to supply direct current in the Greenwich area.

    The problem was very thoroughly considered, with the result that it was decided that, having regard to all the circumstances, a two phase alternating system would be better suited than any other to the requirements of the districts embraced, more especially as the company was approached by a local   tramway company to supply power for driving the tramway as soon as the company should have obtained the necessary parliamentary sanction.

    These powers have since been granted, and the company will, therefore be probably called upon in the immediate future to supply current to the cars from the same station that now supplies the lighting load. 

    A site, covering 2 acres 1 rood and 4 poles, having a frontage to the river at Blackwall Point, was obtained, and although situated on one of the boundaries, it was apparent that the advantages of coal supply, condensing facilities &c., would  more than compensate for loss in transmission on the trunk cables; but for some presumably good but non -apparent reason, having purchased the site with those advantages, it was forthwith decided to ,make no use of them. and at the present moment the steam is not condensed, and the transferring of the coal from the barges to the bunkers is done entirely by hand. and must cost £200 or 300 a year or more. 

    The original scheme included, in addition to the rails on the wharf a coal conveyor, by means of which a 600 ton collier could have been emptied in twenty-four hours into a 70 ton bunker situated immediately over the boilers and it is to be hoped that something of the kind will back adopted in   the near future. the penny-wise policy, of cutting down capital expenditure in labour has so often  been condemned, and is so palpably unfair to the shareholders, that it is to be hoped that the company will take the earliest opportunity of abandoning it in favour of more rational methods. 

    The question of condensing is one which has been very fully discussed and the policy in electric light stations has almost universally been to postpone the expenditure on the condensing plant until the load is so large that it is comparatively constant.  There are, indeed, electric light stations in this country in  which the condensing plant put in is so large that the steam required to drive the air pumps is more than the amount  saved by condensing and they are consequently used only for perhaps three or four hours a day. The result is that the amount of capital that remains unproductive for hours a day is increased although the  actual total spent on plant is slightly less than if the top load were dealt with non-condensing or to be more accurate, might less if the introduction  of condensers actually reduced the expenditure on generating plant.

    As a rule it is not until the station has passed through the lean years and is established as a successful undertaking that any attempt is made to increase the year’s dividends by reducing the coal consumption in this way. To digress for a moment, let us assume that the expression ‘load factor’  means the ratio of the average to the maximum possible rate of production. We shall probably be justified in stating that with the existing load factor the coal consumption at Blackheath is equivalent to 23 lb.-Welsh steam coal-per unit sold. It will be admitted that the load factor will materially improve as time goes on, and the coal per unit sold will be reduced. At the present moment with a bad load factor the coal consumption is a larger item in the total cost of  production than it is ever likely to be again, and it would  therefore seem to follow that it is more important to reduce  the coal consumption now than later on when the conditions of the load have so far improved as to make the coal a small,  instead of as at present a large, proportion of the total cost of production. 

    (l) Condensing plant, provided that it is capable of dealing with the average load over a twenty four hour day. If, as is reasonable, we assume (1) a 10 per cent load factor; (2) a coal consumption of 16 lb. per unit; (3) a saving of 20 per cent due to condensing; (4) maximum load of 600 kilowatts.  Then it follows that our total saving per annum equals:

    - 626 tons of coal saved per annum. 

    (2) If on the other hand, a condensing plant is provided for condensing the maximum load, this can only be used economically for two hours per diem. 

    Then on the same basis, except that the coal consumption per unit must be taken as 8 lb, since the rate of production reduces this figure, we have as our total saving per annum 

    The company's site has a frontage to the river of 227ft and a substantial timber and concrete wharf has been built.  The front piles 38ft  to 45ft long and 13in. square are driven at 9ft 9½ ins centres with a batter of one in twenty four, the wing wall piles being 12 in by 12 in with l0 in centres. A line of 6 in thick sheet piling is carried the whole length of the wharf, the top of it being embedded in concrete. The bearing piles are 9 in by 9 in.  The anchor piles are 12 in by 12 in. All piles were driven till the last six blows of a 20 cwt ram falling 6 ft. drove them less than 3 in.  Swivelling mooring hooks are provided, instead of the usual bollards. These hooks are anchored back diagonally, just below the surface of the concrete, to two of the main anchor  piles. The wharf has a road-metalled surface, and a fall of 12in. from the engine-room wall to the drains which discharge on to the river front. Fifty-six-pound Vignoles rails run from end to end, and two turntables arc provided, one connecting with a set of rails running right inside the  engine-room so that machinery delivered by boat can be  taken off the truck, under cover, by the engine-room traveller,and placed at once on the foundations. The difficulty of handling and erecting new machines is not as a rule sufficiently considered: but this arrangement meets the case very well, and should save trouble and expense in the future.  The other turntable communicates with another set of rails which runs down the side of the boiler house over the coal bunker so that coal may be taken out of barge or colliers and shot straight into them. 

    The station buildings are not in themselves interesting from an architectural point of view, but a great deal of difficulty was experienced in their construction at first, owing to the dangerous condition of the subsoil, which contained two veins of soft peat.

    The old river front consisted of an artificial clay bank said to have been the work of the Romans, but the ground  behind this bank and several feet below the top of it was made ground, and was very largely composed of soapworks refuse and soft rubbish; in fact no solid bottom could be obtained for the walls or engine foundations without going  down to the ballast which was found at depth varying  from 28ft  to 35ft. below the finished surface of the wharf,  which, according to Thames Conservancy regulations, is 5ft. 6in. above Trinity high water mark. 

    The expense of taking the foundations to such a depth would have been enormous and the results in a water logged soil would have been doubtful, and it was consequently decided that the whole building should be built on piles. Pitch pine piles have been used throughout, uncreosoted. Another consideration that led to the adoption of the piles was the danger of causing damage to surrounding property by draining the water out of the subsoil. The entire block of buildings now stands on piles. These piles are arranged so as to distribute the load as equally as possible and carry approximately 20 tons each.  For example the steel stanchions supporting the gantry and the roof on the east side of the existing engine-house will, when the engine-house is extended laterally, be called upon to carry something like 100 tons, and they are therefore supported on five piles each 30ft. long and 12in. by 12in. section fitted with 201b steel pointed shoes driven about 3ft into the ballast.  The heads of all the piles are cut off level 9in  above the finished surface of the excavation, which  then covered by 3in. float of concrete in which the heads of the piles are buried.

    Another feature of the buildings which we noticed is the fact that there are no skylights. The walls below the gantry are not available for windows, and the lighting has been affected by putting in windows in the walls between the roof and the traveller rails. 

    The buildings generally are very substantial, and eminently suitable for the purpose for which they were designed. A comparatively small additional expenditure would have been sufficient to make them more architecturally beautiful. This spirit of rigid economy has not, however been carried to excess the engine room walls are faced with white glazed bricks, and all the brickwork is set in cement. 

    The buildings at present erected include engine house, boiler-house, pump-house, and shaft and occupy an area of 11,515 square ft. The inside dimensions are as follows, engine house 104ft. 2in by 35ft. 71/2 in; boiler house, l03 ft 6in by 46ft. 1in; pump-house, 25ft. 1½ in. by 16ft 6in

    The boiler-house is designed to accommodate six Babcock and Wilcox water-tube boilers of 250 horse power each, and two Green’s economisers. The engine house will accommodate the engines at present installed, together with an additional engine of any size from 500 to 1000 indicated horse power

    The shaft for the boiler house is built on a concrete float 40ft square and 9 ft thick, containing in all 583 cubic yards of concrete and weighing 720 tons. The height of the shaft is 198ft. from the concrete float. For a height of 4Oft. The base is square; it then becomes round, and continues so for the rest of its height. The inside diameter of the shaft at the top is 9ft.  The total weight of the shaft and foundations is about 1700 tons. The firebrick lining is continued up the shaft for  a distance of 60ft., the thickness being 9 in at the top and  14 in at the bottom, the maximum air space being 4 ½ ins  and  the minimum l 2/3 ins. The boiler house plant at present installed consists of three Babcock and Wilcox water tube boilers, each capable of evaporating 10,000 lb. of water per hour at 160 lb. pressure. The grate area of each boiler is 51 square feet, and the heating surface 2852 square feet. The  boilers are of the double-drum type, the two drums being each 23ft. 7in. by 3ft. 6in., and connected by a cross drum  fitted with one main 7in stop valve mounted on the top.  Each boiler contains 126 4in tubes. The economisers are not at present installed, but provision has been made in building the main flue for installing them in the future.  There will be four economisers, each consisting of 96 tubes. 

    The boilers are fed by two Evans horizontal ram pumps. The steam cylinders being 6 in. and 10 in, the ram being 5 ½ in, and the stroke 12 in. The feed water is heated by two Chevalet heater detarteriseras, which extract the scale from the water, and in doing so heat it to 212 deg. Fah. By means of the exhaust steam from the exciter engines. These heater detarterisers the use of which is comparatively new in electric lighting stations, consist of a series of trays in each of which the water comes into contact with the exhaust steam. The heat thus Imparted to the water boils it, and freeing all the carbonic acid in solution causes the carbonate of lime to be deposited in the form of a soft scale in the bottom of these trays. The calcium sulphate is also deposited by mixing common soda with the water as it enters the heaters. This combines with the sulphate thus:

    CA SO4 + NA2 CO2– NA2 SO4 + CA CO2

    The sodium sulphate is soluble in the water, and the calcium carbonate is thrown down in the heater tray. The sodium sulphate is prevented from concentrating in the boilers by blowing them down occasionally. The scale is very easily removed, the trays being lifted up by the traveller immediately overhead, and run on to a platform which forms the ceiling of the pump-room. Here they are lowered and stood on edge and cleaned out in a few minutia. One of these heaters can easily be cleaned and set to work again in a morning.  The oil in the exhaust steam, which might otherwise prove a nuisance, is extracted by a separator before the steam enters the heater, and what little does remain is thrown down with the scale in the heater trays. No trouble is experienced  owing to oil being carried over with the exhaust steam. Immediately over these heaters is placed a water tank 16ft 6ins 24ft by 4ft. This is supplied from the water company’s main, and is provided with an indicator, fixed in the pump house, to register the height of the water in the tank. 

    The systems of pipe work in use at this station are interesting on account of the flexibility obtained by the arrangement of valves and interconnections. The system adopted consists of a ring main placed vertically against the boiler house Wall. The boiler branches enter the lower part of the ring immediately over pockets at the bottom of which a drain is fixed which is connected to a steam trap and so kept free from water. The engine branches are taken off the top half of the rig and through the engine room wall straight to the engines. This system while giving flexibility to the steam ring isentirely devoid of water troubles  and, moreover as all the valves are visible to anyone  operating any  one valve, mistakes such as sometimes occur  with ring mains  are here entirely avoided. The valves are all of Hopkinsons make. And are in every case fitted with a small bypass.  The two horizontal steam mains are connected at each end by a semicircular steel bend.   

    The system of jointing in use consists of a ring of copper 1/12 in thick and ¾ in wide placed between the faces of flanges which are screwed and welded onto the pipe, and then turned dead true. The joint is tightened up by means of bolts placed through Cast Iron collars which are loose on the pipes. This form of jointing gives excellent results, and reduces the repairs to pipe work to a minimum. The feed piping system consists of a 4 in ring feed main with the valves and suction pipes so arranged that either half of the rings can be used for hot or for cold feed.  Throughout all the pipe work in this station there is no  one joint which if it were  to give out  would under  any circumstances cause a  failure in the continuity  of the current supply.   

    Having now dealt with the boiler house plant, we will proceed with the engine -room plant, which is the more interesting on account of its two phases alternators. Briefly the engine-room plant may be divided up into two sets. First the high speed engine driving the direct  coupled “day load”  alternators and their exciters and,  secondly, the larger  slow speed horizontal engines driving fly wheel alternators Which latte are excited by continuous current dynamos driven  by separate high speed engines. There are two “day load” sets, each consisting of a Bellis, high speed compound engine and a Johnson and Phillips two phase alternator and exciter running at 375 revolutions per minute.  The diameter of the high pressure cylinder is 12ins, of the low pressure cylinder 2Oin, with a stroke of 9 in, the brake horse-power is 190 and kilowatts 125. The approximate weight of each combined plant is 17 tons. The engines are fitted with Bellis usual system of forced lubrication in an enclosed crank chamber. The alternators are of the fly-wheel type, and were built by Johnson and Phillips giving a normal speed 8000 volts on each phase. The coils in the armature which is stationary, are wound in slots in the iron core each coil being enclosed in a micanite tube. Ring lubrication is used on the alternator bearings. Each machine has its own exciter coupled onto the end of the alternator shaft and each exciter is capable of supplying suffocate current to excite both day load sets should such an emergency arise.   

    The heavy load plant at present consists of two Clench engines with fly wheel alternators, also built by Johnson and Phillips, running at 90 revolutions per minute.  The indicated horse power is 450. They are cross-compound horizontal engines, the cranks are overhung, the crank disc being keyed and shrunk on to the shaft. The following are the principal dimensions of these engines: - high pressure cylinder diameter 19 in, low-pressure cylinder diameter 37 in, stroke 38 in, indicated horse power 400, approximate weight of engine is 20 tons. Approximate weight of flywheel 17 tons; diameter of piston rods 3 1/2 in; diameter and length of crank pin. 6 in; diameter of shaft in Journal 10 ½ in; length of Journal 21 ins; diameter of shaft in fly-wheel boss 31 in; length of journals 24 ins.  The piston rods are extended to form a tail-rod and thus minimise the wear on the cylinder liners. The valve gear for steam admission on both the high pressure and low pressure engines is worked by a trip motion, and it is on  this trip that the engine governs - the governor being dead weight and being also adjustable by hand while the engine is  running. The exhaust valves on both cylinders have a direct motion and are a modification of the ordinary sliding grid type. All valves and the governor are driven on a secondary motion shaft which is itself driven off the main shaft by worm gearing enclosed in an oil bath. The beds of the engine are formed of heavy box castings with hand holes for all holding down bolts.  

    The alternators are wound in the same way as the day load sets. There are 64 coils in each phase making total of 128 coils in each machine. The diameter of the fly wheel to the edge of the field magnets is 11 ft 10 ½ ins. the number of field magnets is 64. The approximate weight of each alternator is 30 tons. The field magnets are bolted on to the periphery of the flywheel. The peripheral speed of the poles of the magnets is 50 ft per second, and the periodicity of the alternators is 50 complete cycles per second.  Steps are provided down into the alternator pits so that in case of a coil burning out it can be replaced easily and without 1oss of time.

    The exciting current for those alternators is supplied from separately -driven exciters. Of which there are two each being capable of supplying the exciting current for all the machinery that will be contained in the present buildings. The dynamos were made by Johnson and Phillips and are 60 kilowatt sets.  And run at 100 volts. The engines are high-speed compound Alley and McLellan enclosed type engines of 76 horse power. Diameter of high pressure cylinder 9 in.  Diameter of low pressure cylinder 14in, stroke 8in speed 470 resolutions per minute. The dynamo bearings lubricated by means of rings in oil boxes while the cranks of the engines enclosed in the crank chamber are provided with splash lubrication. The oil in these crank beamers is cooled by means of cold water supplied from the water company’s main. Which after passing through the crank chamber is delivered into the feed water tank?

    The engine-room is provided with travelling crane by Carrick and Ritchie capable of lifting 90 tons, so constructed that all the motions can be controlled from the engine room floor level, thus doing away the necessity of monopolising one mans labour. The traveller runs on gantry rails at a height of 23ft. 6in. above the engine-room floor level, and is supported on arches on one side, and on steel stanchions and rolled steel joists on the other. The engine foundations rest on the concrete float and the engine-room floor is composed of girders and concrete. The space around the foundations is thus left clear and all exhaust and drain and other pipes are supported from the engine room floor by means of slings. Arrangements have been made for the installation of condensing plant, which was to havoc been placed in the basement. The basement is drained into a sump fitted with non return valves to prevent any water entering at high tide. 

    The engines at the present time exhaust into atmosphere two outlets being provided. One at each end of the engine room. The steam for the heaters is taken off one of the outlets, a back pressure valve being provided to automatically keep a pressure of 6 in. to 18 in of water on the exhaust steam in order to force it through the water in the heater trays. Valves are placed in the main exhaust so that some of the engines may be exhausting to atmosphere while others are exhausting to the heaters or to condensers

    The output of the station is controlled from a switchboard situated at one end of the engine room on a gallery 14ft above the floor level. The machine panels are on the left hand side, and are separated from the feeder panels on the right by the exciter panel and the synchronising panel. The output from each machine goes direct through two fuses one being on each phase. The other pole of each phase being connected to earth. After passing through these two fuses it goes through   a double-pole snitch and through to ammeters on to the bus bars. Energy sent out to the mains is registered on Thomson Houston primary watt meters on the earthed leads. There are at present four in use.  

    Units generated by the two day load are registered on two 50 ampere TH. primary watt meters which by means of a small auxiliary bus bar are kept independent of  the 250 ampere motor which register the output of  the larger alternators. They are all connected between the machines and the earthed bus bars, but to ensure absolute safety each is fitted with an isolating plug switch so that they may be inspected or cleaned if necessary without being removed from the switchboard. The normal full load output of the day load sets is 22 ampere, and the larger meters do not come into operation until the current exceeds that amount, so that the sum of the readings of all these meters should represent accurately the total units generated. Each feeder panel carries two ammeters, a double-pole switch, and two single-poles fuses.   

    The synchronising connections are arranged in duplicate, one synchronising transformer being placed on each phase.  The act of synchronising is only performed on one phase, so that the second transformer is merely a standby. The machine switches are so arranged that it is impossible to close any switch until both the plugs energising the synchronising transformers havoc been inserted so that the  only machine that  can be put into parallel Is the one synchronised. Two other plugs energising the bus bar valves of the synchronising transformers are then inserted on the synchronising panel and a lamp and volt meter are provided in the usual way to give the indications of synchronisation. The machines are first paralleled on the four-pronged plug   switch on the synchronising panel and the main alternator switch of the machine thus put in is then closed. It is, in fact, the only own that can be closed. These switches are also fitted with an arc blow-out.  Mounted on the machine panels are the necessary rheostats for regulating the fields in the alternators. These, on the day load sets, are arranged so that one makes a slow adjustment - being placed on the shunt of the exciter - while the other, being placed in series with the alternator field makes a rapid adjustment. Those two are so proportioned that the whole of the first is equal to one step of the second. The voltage can by this means be regulated to within half a volt on the lighting network. 

    The main sets themselves on the other hand are only provided with one rheostat, the second being placed on the exciter panel. Each main set is, of course, provided with the necessary field breaking switch having carbon breaks. The exciter panel controls both exciter sets being provided with a double pole switch and ammeter for each, and a volt meter for the two. There are also mounted on the same panel field regulating rheostats connected up in series with the field of each exciter. Mounted on the synchronising panel are electrostatic volt meters on the bus bars and the machine, and a multicellular electrostatic ammeter by means of which the voltage or current at any substation may be read. This instrument is also provided with a maximum indication register so that the output from any sub-station or any feeder may be recorded automatically.  

    All the instruments on the switchboard are mounted on marble panels and the panels themselves are carried on a substantial steel L framework. The gallery is composed of steel H girders and concrete. This being covered with ¾ inch of asphalt and then 1 ½ in. of granolithic cement. Thus forming an insulated layer. On this floor are placed rubber mats to give still greater protection to the switchboard attendants. In addltion to these prcautions high tension apparatus is placed at such a height above the ground that it is quite impossible for anyone to touch it accidentally. 1t is also important to note that no metal parts of switches or fuses carrying current can be touched when they are alive, No part of the metal of the switches is alive until the switch is closed and then the contact pieces are buried in the marble of the switch panel.   

    The provision of a transformer on each phase enables each phase to be tested for synchronisation whenever this becomes necessary after a machine has been disconnected or over hauled thus making certain that the connections are correct.

    The area that this company supplies covers 17 square miles and embraces a population of 250,000. The cables which are of the British Insulated Wire Company's manufacture, are of the eccentric type, insulated with impregnated paper, and covered with lead served under hydraulic pressure.  The cables were laid on the solid system in earthenware troughs filed in solid with bitumen. They were tested after lying with an alternating pressure of 6000 volts between the   conductors, and 2500 volts between the conductors and earth. There are at present eight cables leaving the generating station four on each phase. Those are divided up as follows: - One pair to Westcombe-Hill sub-station, one pair to Concert Hall sub-station, and one pair to Crooms Hill sub-station, the other pair making connection as spare cables to each of the above sub-stations. The output from the station is delivered to the sub-stations at 8000 volts. The outer conductors are in every case connected to the earth bar on the main switchboard. The continuous current district covers the whole of Greenwich. Current is supplied from the generating station at Blackwall Point to two of the substations above referred to at Westcombe Hill and Crooms Hill  respectively. Those sub-stations at present contain two motor generators each and supply currant to low tension distributor on the throe-wire system, a voltage of 500 volts being maintained across the outer conductors

    At Westcombe Hill sub-station, which supplies Westcombe Park and the district round, there are two motor generators, each consisting of two-phase motor and two continuous current generators, one coupled to each end of the motor.  The supply from the generating station is brought by a pair of concentric cables to the high tension switchboard, another pair acting as spare cables for use in emergency. These cables pass directly into fuse plugs and thence trough two double -pole switches. And another set of fuse plugs to the motor armature. The double-pole switches are connected; one to the inners and the other to the outers, thus the circuit can be broken on the outer conductor, which as already stated are connected to earth. The motor is connected up to a resistance in the usual way. The low-tension switchboard possesses no unusual features, but is similar to the dynamo and feeder panels of a continuous current station. Provision is made for the addition of another motor generator at this substation. 

    At Crooms Hill sub-station, which supplies the district round Greenwich Park, the arrangements are very similar, with the exception that this sub-station is a larger one than that at Westcombe-Hill, and that provision is to be made in the immediate future for the supply of current to the South East Metropolitan Tramway under the Order which they have obtained this session. The plant at present installed is the same size as the plant at Westcombe Hill substation.  The low- tension distributors from these two sub-stations are interconnected, so that each can supply the other if necessary. 

    The system of distribution adopted in the alternating- current area calls for no special mention And only differs from that of an ordinary low-tension alternating network In that the distribution on any one side of a road is always on a different phase to that on the other side, so that two-phase motors may be used in any part of the district. To facilitate balancing the electrostatic ammeters above referred to have been introduced. This apparatus, which for want of  a better name we have called an electrostatic ammeter, is a Kelvin  electrostatic volt meter, and under normal conditions is used  as such, but by means of a separate small transformer, in  series with the outer of each of the four cables the our rent  going out of each feeder may be ascertained. The secondary of each of these transformers may be connected in turn to the volt meter terminal by ordinary wall plugs, and it will be seen that the electromotive force across the terminals of the secondary windings is proportional to the current passing trough the feeder. These transformers are furnished with three windings, so that readings may always be obtained at the best part of the volt meter scale, but the norma1 position of the transformer switches is such that the smallest of the three readings per ampere is obtained. This is merely a precautionary measure adopted to prevent damage to the instrument in the event of its being left connected all night by mistake. 

    Each of the sub-stations is connected to the generating station by two or more pilot wires, and as the actual current in the series windings of the series transformers is negligible, they - the pilot wires – are used to show by means of the switchboard multicellular the output in amperes on any feeder in the sub-station., no correction being necessary for C2R 1osses on the pilot wires. The maximum indication register is a simple attachment by wick the maximum output on the feeder during the night is ascertained it consists of a second pointer moved by the volt meter index in one direction only. 

    The introduction of these series transformers into the substations enables the ampere readings to be very accurately taken on the volt meter, and only the one instrument is necessary for any number of feeders. It will, of course, be clear that the pilot volt meter on the generating station switchboard is ordinarily used to ascertain the volts on the low-tension bus bars of either the direct or alternating sub-stations. The feeders to all the other four sub-stations in the alternating current area are taken from the Concert Hall substation. The low-tension distributors from each sub-station are so planned that three can be connected together at certain points, so that in case of necessity one sub-station can be made to help another. 

    We observe that the system of supplying the wiring and  fittings for six free  lights now in operation at the House  to House Company, and recently introduced into the South  London Company has been adopted, but we are inclined to  think that it will be difficult to Induce consumers to extend  their six-light installations. 

    No doubt a great many people who would not otherwise become consumers are tempted by the six free lights but It is doubtful whether, having induced the company to supply at their own expellee the six lights they are most anxious to have, they will be so far convinced of the advantages of electric light that they will at their own    expense put in wiring and fitting in any other room in the house. It would appear to us that the effect of this half hearted attempt at free wiring will be to emphasise the peak of the load curve, because most of the six-light installations will come on simultaneously, while at the same time no inducement is offered to the consumer to take electricity for the lamps in passages, basement, and bedroom, which after all are far more remunerative to the supply company. 

    The Blackheath Company is charging 6d. per unit for lighting, and inasmuch as this is equivalent to gas at 3s per 1000 cubic feet, people who have electric light in their principal rooms will probably be content to use gas at 2s. 8d. the price charged by the local gas company in this kitchen and bedroom, etc etc. This is, however, no doubt a matter in which the company will be guided by practical experience, although we should have thought that at this point in the history of electric supply there should be sufficient experience to indicate the most profitable policy in any district of London. The company's area, embracing as it does such districts as Greenwich, Woolwich, Lewisham, and Charlton should have an enormous field for the supply of power, but the demand must be created by offering electricity at a price  wish will compete favourably with gas or steam. If some steps are taken to prevent the overlapping of the power and the lighting loads, there appears to be no reason why electricity for motive power should not be supplied at 11d. per unit. So many cases exist in which current is supplied profitably at 1d. for power purposes or indeed, any long hour Consumers, that there would appear to be no necessity-or shall we say excuse for throwing away opportunities, by offering to supply power at 3d.

    The station was designed and carried out under the supervision of Mr. Reginald P. Wilson, to whose courtesy we are indebted for the above detail, and for the drawings we were enabled to reproduce. We may, however, perhaps be able to offer a few criticisms on several points. The size of the chimney appears to be excessive, and the position is such that a very large expenditure has been incurred in providing for the economiser inside the boiler house, and a similar expenditure will be involved again when the extension of the boiler-house is built. There appears to be no reason why the buildings should be set back so far from the wharf front. The foundations depend for their security on piles and could, therefore, have safely been put within a few feet of the water. By this means the cost of the coal conveyors and the actual cost of handling coal with or without coal conveyors would have been reduced, and the condensing arrangements would have been to some extent facilitated.   

    The fact that the engines do not run condensing we have already alluded to, and Mr. Wilson's view. On the subject of cheap supply to long hour consumers are so familiar to central station engineers and to readers of the electrical journals that it would be useless to us to add anything to what he has already said with a view to inducing the directors to supply power at a reasonable price

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    The riverside path along by Lovells and Enderbys is apparently closed - more of that below.  

    First of all - the steps at Enderbys.  There are two jetties at Enderby Wharf and between them are some steps going down into the river.  These steps were a sort of ferry terminal where a row boat or a launch met people who wanted to go out to a cable ship moored out in the river.   They covered over a medieval sluice - Bendish Sluice.  The 500 year old sluice - there four years ago - has now vanished, presumably removed in the building work.  But the steps, hopefully, are still there.

    Some twelve or so years ago the environmental charity, Groundwork, spent a lot of public money doing up all sorts of improvements to the riverside path on this stretch.  There were trees, and flowers, and seats and artworks. They got the companies with factories along the river to pay for it and sign maintenance agreements,  Then the companies sold up and went and the developers moved in.  All that planting and seats were trashed.

    However - the Enderby jetties are still owned by Alcatel (or whatever their new name is) and artifacts remain on the big jetty - and - and - the art work on the steps.

    Here's what Carol Kenna of Greenwich Mural Workshop who was responsible for the installation says about it:-

    The steps were installed part of works conducted along the East Greenwich Waterfront identified within the Groundwork ‘Vital Centre and Green Links” initiative.The programme was delivered by a team comprising Groundwork Thames Gateway London South, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Alcatel, Amylum UK Ltd, The Environment Agency and  Thames 21, advised by Deptford Discovery Team and Greenwich Mural Workshop.The project cost £20,000 for the steps and Alcatel agreed to clean them periodically to remove algae. This was part of £8,175,000 awarded to Groundwork for the Vital Centres and Green Links programme.
    The works were financed through the SRB programme and contributions from Alcatel and Amylum.
    Enderby Steps were an initiative by Greenwich Mural Workshop sculpted by sculptor Richard Lawrence. The intention was to refurbish the historical steps that had lead to the landing stage that enabled shipmen to land from the large ships moored off shore waiting to be loaded with cables.
    The sub structure of the steps were found to be sound and new steps, made from Opepe wood fixed to concrete beams fixed with stainless steel rod. There are 17 steps in all, plus a wooden floor attached to a concrete raft. Opepe wood is a very durable Marine Hardwood, commonly used for sea defences.
    Following research into the history of Alcatel and the industries of Greenwich Peninsula designs were produced and carved into the steps and decking to illustrate the history of the area and its importance in the development of telecommunications in Greenwich. The steps were carved and installed in 2001. Alcatel, Dr. Mary Mills and local people all contributed towards the research
    The steps were conceived as one of a number of works in the area including the developing Enderby Wharf as a public open space illustrating the history of Alcatel including the placement of a cable repeater, retention of the cable winding machinery and explanation boards.

    So what has happened?  Problem is we don't know.  A couple of weeks ago Enderby Group picked up that there was a plan for a (very necessary) storm drain to outfall through the old medieval sluice. - and there were other things agreed, for instance a reed bed.   They asked if the contractors were aware of the art work - and have lobbied and rung and tried to contact anyone with any influence.  We will let you know when we find out.
    The other problem is that we can't get down the path to look and see what is going on.  The path was closed by the Environment Agency at the request of one of the developers.  The Council have, apparently, tried to get them to agree to a shorter diversion - but this has fallen on deaf ears.    The next problem - as raised at a recent EGRA meeting - is that once the current problem is sorted, the next developer along can raise something else with the Environment Agency and get the next bit closed - and the next - and the next --

    They can't shut it for ever - it is a right of way, ratified in a Kent Assize judgement of 1875 and reinforced by a judgement of 1999 when the Council took a developer, further down, to Court.

    But - and this is a big but - what will be revealed when it is finally opened.  Will it be the same sterile promenade we have everywhere else.  It isn't just the art work - its the general ambience and the vitally important historic framework.  

    A few more things - and then the obligatory quote from Ian Nairn.

    One is that any decisions about the path have to go in front of the Council who can comment on them - we need to know that they are properly briefed

    Two is that all these big planning applications to the Council are followed by a blizzard of small ones - 'reserved matters' they are 99% boring nit picking details which for various, usually good, reasons, were not in the main application. Decisions on drains and path ways et al will be buried in that somewhere. Look at them - read through the paint colours and site safety regulations and the size of the wheel washers - and find the path

    We need to work out if we are serious or not about visitors. What do we want from this area which is so historically important. Do we really want to trash it??

    OK - so here's Ian Nairn, TV architectural commentator and major stirrer  - he wrote this in 1966

    This unknown and unnamed riverside path is the best Thames- side walk in London. It beats all of the embankments and water- gardens hollow. Best in this direction, because then the walk has a climax: the domes of Greenwich Hospital beckoning round the bend of the river, and a splendidly unselfconscious free house, the Cutty Sark. The entrance certainly takes some finding: to get there, fork left facing the southern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel with its pretty Art Nouveau gatehouse. About two hundred yards along, on the left, a passage leads down beside the Delta Metal Co. It zigs and it zags, but it doesn't give up, and eventually comes out at the river. The start is now a sizeable belvedere, but the path soon takes on much more exciting forms: between walls, or unfenced above a slide down to the water, or wandering past timber wharves, under cranes and in one case nipping around the back of a boat yard. Never the same for a hundred yards at once, a continuous flirtation with the slow- flowing river, choked with working boats. The first houses come in at the Cutty Sark (Union Wharf): then there is a final exciting stretch past Greenwich Power Station and the astonishing contrast with the Trinity almshouses next door, another good riverside pub (the Yacht), and the climax of the footpath in front of Greenwich Hospital. Not just a walk, but a stressed walk - mostly by accident. God preserve it from the prettifiers. The Enderby Group has been working on ideas for the area around the path and Enderby House. All will be revealed in due course.
        'They' are trying to close it. Walk it as you would a country path, till they are sick to the guts"

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  • 12/02/16--05:45: Atlas and Derrick
  • A couple of weeks ago Greenwich Industrial History was contacted by campaigners at Atlas and Derrick Gardens.

    This small estate is now owned by Greenwich Council - and is in one of the more obscure bits of the borough.  It is down Anchor and Hope Lane, down among all the industrial sites and opposite the new Sainsbury's depot.   Difficult to find and tucked away.  Not for much longer!   There are plans by Rockwell Developers to surround it with 28 storey blocks of flats as Charlton sites go for 'redevelopment'.

    (and incidentally swallowing up many other interesting sites, which may include the old Glenton railway - which still has some of its rails!)

    Atlas and Derrick was built by Cory's around 1908.  Cory Environmental are still just along the river with their tug depot and dry dock just along the riverside path.  That small drab workplace - which looks after all the tugs which transport the rubbish barges - is a small part of a huge modern multi national.  Just down at Erith Cory have a vast rubbish destructor and much more.  The firm is said to have been set up by William Cory in the early 19th century and was initally a haulage and lighterage business.

    I remain confused however by Cory and its background. In South Wales Cory Brothers operated a net work of mines and coal haulage.  There is even still a Cory Brass Band.  Are they the same people - or is it just a coincidence that there were two big companies in the coal trade in the 19th century set up by people with this fairly unusual name.  Other Corys pop up in directories and so on all the time - for example I found a Cory dye works in Limehouse in the 1820s.

    What is however well known - and well illustrated is Atlas (hence Atlas and Derrick Gardens). There were three successive Atlases and they were moored in the river off Charlton. The idea was to save river space and wharfage time.  The collier ships - of which there would have been 100s coming into the Thames from the North east coal staithes - moored up against Atlas and her derricks would have been used to remove the coal and transfer it into barges. And off the barges would go to deliver it to wherever it was to be used

    In the early 19th Cory built these blocks of housing for their workers.  The current resident group have been looking through ideas of philanthropic and company housing - and it would be useful to them if they could contact a specialist in this subject.  I am aware of several estates built in this period for workers - one example up in Rotherhithe would be Moodkee Gardens built in twenty or so years later by South Metropolitan Gas.  and there are more recent example locally in Harvey Gardens and Prentis Court.

    The estate is made up of two squares surrounding greens with lots of mature trees, The campaigners think that Derrick was built for the managers and Atlas for deputy managers and workers.

    Atlas and Derrick is potentially a very pretty estate - it needs a bit of loving care. The campaign group are trying to find out more details about it - was their an architect?  What do people know about the estate and how can they find out more??

    There is a short history of the estate and  Corys in Charlton in John Smith's History of Charlton - difficult to get but ok if you can.

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  • 12/07/16--04:16: General news and notes
  • Stuff sent to us in the past week

    email to us


    The current Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society's Newsletter has a couple of items about Greenwich.

    One is about the closure of Firepower - "The Royal Artillery Experience' at Woolwich Royal Arsenal closed in July 2016 after struggling for years to meet its target of 200,000 visitors per years".  They explain that the collection will go to the Science Museum Store in Wiltshire and not be available to the public.

    - a personal comment is that we ought to find out what has happened to their valuable archive which for many years was open(ish) to the public at the RMA building in Academy Road.  And (even more personal) to hope that this exhibition about shooting people is replaced by something that reflects the academic, research and manufacturing base in the Arsenal  - we have here somewhere which was a world centre of excellence for technological development - and are we putting it on display?? Apparently not!  Mary (sorry about that)

    The GLIAS Newsletter also reports on a planning application from Crossness Engines for a narrow gauge railway and modification to an existing building as a depot.  This will be a single 18" gauge track with passing loops and a station at each end. This will take people from the car park to the pumping station.  They hope to use the locomotives under restoration on this.

    Perhaps someone from Crossness could tell us more about the progress of this - presumably the planning application was to Bexley Council. Can we know more??

    GLIAS also lists the following Greenwich sites as being featured in the London Archaeologists Fieldwork Roundup for 2015
    (these are sites professional archaeologists have worked on  - and PLEASE professional archaeologists - if you ever read this - this blog is always happy to put a note about your work, or whatever you want - but you need to tell us.  It would be nice if you did)

    Enderby Wharf - location of gunpowder works and other features
    Eltham Church of England Primary School - where they recorded a Second World War air raid shelter
    Greenwich Market - where they found the remains of brick walls which may have been part of Joseph Kaye's work of 1830
    Royal Arsenal Riverside - found to clay pipe kilns and a bread oven

    GLIAS future events include

    18th January - Conkers, Cordite & the Birth of Modern Biotechnology. Prof. Martin Adams
    15th February - The Spitalfields Silk Industry. Sue Jackson
    15th March - Crossrail Archaeological Roundup.  Jay Carver and Andy Shelley
    19th April  - The Royal Arsenal, Then and now. Ian Bull
    17th May - AGM - The New River. Andrew Smith

    all at 6.30 in The Gallery, 75 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6EL


    We have been sent some material from

    This includes something about 'Placemaking and Heritage Research'  which says "This year, research for Heritage Counts focused on placemaking and heritage. To investigate this topic, research was conducted into the use of heritage in place branding by Business Improvement Districts. The findings of this project will appeal to all organisations involved with place branding and with an interest in how heritage could be incorporated to enhance places".  

    The posting includes a link to a workbook giving the heritage profile of every local authority - (sorry - tried to get through to the Greenwich section but it complained about the version of Excel and refused to download - better luck if someone else can do it!)
    There is also a link to a lot of research on the economic advantages of heritage sites - again please download and let us know what you think.


    Another old pub about to go

    We have had an email about the imminent demise of "the wonderful Victorian PH, "The Thames"."  This is the Rose and Crown Pub on the corner of Thames Street and Norway Street.  This is a proposal from a developer despite, we are informed that "It is the last remaining Victoria building in that part of Greenwich,  and is actually in good condition, has been lived in recently..  and ... has existing permission to be converted into a  gastropub and flats".  The email also says "it's about time we started to hold on to our heritage".

    Happy to pass any info on


    We have a long email from the East London Waterways Group - and its a pity they don't have a web site we could refer you to because much of what they send it very interesting. 
    They headline this as 'Help Stop Fake Heritage at the former London Chest Hospital'.  This again is how developers of this important site want to turn some perfectly decent, and listed, buildings into looking like something they never were to start with.    The email also contains information about some of the industrial buildings at Hackney Wick, which are now being eyed up by developers.  Most of these were in perfectly sustainable office, industrial and studio use until the Olympics came along next door. Many of the ones now being got at were part of the Dalton peanut factory.

    Happy to forward their email - but - even better - get on their mailing list


    and another old pub on the way out

    This is the pub which has over recent years been 'The Book Place' and was held up by scaffolding for a very long time. This was The Beehive and is another 19th building rapidly being surrounded by new builds.  Do we really think tourists are going to come to Greenwich to see lots of new ten storey blocks of flats??

    Happy to pass on contacts if people email



    We currently have a lot of stuff to go on this blog - and there is now a queue (but don't let that stop you sending more)

    We hope in the next few days to cover

    Our Lady of Grace Presbytery and engineer Peter Barlow (see the blue plaque)

    Greenwich Power Station - and plans for its extension

    Woolwich Labour Party's first offices - the first and original Labour Party ever


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  • 12/27/16--03:07: New news


    The December issue of Newcomen Links features a report by Richard Buchanan on the seminar held in September at the Royal Institution on 150 years of Transatlantic Telecommunications

    Clearly Greenwich and Enderby Wharf features largely in this - Richard is a prominent member of the Enderby Group (and much else) and the inaugural paper was given by Enderby Group's Stewart Ash.  We also understand that the Group contributed a great deal to the planning of the seminar, which was set up by the Newcomen Society's Julia Elton.

    Trying to unpick the Greenwich bits from this long and details paper is bit daunting. Throughout the paper work done in Greenwich at Enderbys features again and again.   The best thing people can do is read it - or ask Richard to come and speak to them, and their society, about it.

    A problem is that Newcomen Links is a members-only newsletter.  Its impressive, and full of information but you have to join the Newcomen Society to get it.  The web site is www.newcomen,com. They are based in the Science Museum.



    We have been sent some information about the Dudgeon ship building family in Deptford and Greenwich. In the 1860s at the far end of the Peninsula a gun manufacturing factory had been set up by Alexander Blakely (see  It appears that when that closed down - which it did, pretty quickly - the Dudgeon family tried to lease the site from Morden College and take over the failing business.  They also looked at the Bessemer site next door.

    Blakely is of great interest to historians of heavy ordnance - an Irishman, he developed a rifling process and fell out with William Armstrong -  the historians working on the Dudgeon business would be interested in any other links.



    Enderby Group have noted the death of Lord Pender - the descendant of Sir John Pender, a self made man, who was a major force in the setting of the early telecommunications industry,   The Enderby Group has been lobbying for the area around Enderby House to be re-named 'Pender Plaza' and we understand a biography of Sir John may be on the way.  Meanwhile a new Lord Pender has inherited his great-great grandfather's title and, hopefully, will continue the family tradition of interest and patronage of the heritage of this important industry



    Along with the Blackheath Society we should all like to congratulate Blackheath historian, Neil Rhind, on his 80th birthday.  We are aware of a big birthday party very soon.  The latest newsletter has a big article about Neil and his career. He has, of course, come and given papers at Greenwich Industrial History Society, on several occasions - most notably, maybe, one about Blackheath based building contractor, William Webster. But there have been many others, all of them worthwhile - and given in Neil's inimitable style.

    The Society are also angrily noting changes to the, listed, Blackheath post office, in its unannounced transformation into a chain newsagents shop.  Original doors and other features have vanished. 



    The group has written to ask us to protest about demolitions planned along the Hackney Cut (ok this is the other side of the river, in Hackney, but it is a very interesting and important site not too far away, (if you ignore the river)).  There are plans to put more bridges over the cut - and into wonderful Victoria Park . The group asks for protests against the demolition of the existing pedestrian bridge and for bus routes to go down White Post Lane.

    They also say that planning applications to alter some of the Fish Island industrial buildings - Algha Works and Swan Wharf - have been refused/withdrawn.

    A later posting from the group is about their efforts to get East End Gasholders preserved. They have failed to save either the  No.2, holder which you can see just the other side of the Blackwall tunnel or the stunning and dramatically sited holder at Bethnal Green.  They are hoping that the small holder at Poplar can be made a feature of a planned sports area. They have published material about all these holders - happy to forward info. (they don't have a web site, this is all in emails and links here are not really possible).  They also have a petition available - again only on an email.



    The new Lewisham History Journal (No 24 2016) is full of articles about Greenwich.

    First off is by Charlton resident the Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury (aka William Newton-Norton) who gives his extensive memories of growing up, a local history enthusiast in Lewisham and Greenwich. He describes the libraries, the talks and the people, and its all good stuff. It includes a photograph of the author, aged 13, being consulted by Sir John Betjeman on the subject of the old Lewisham Town Hall (it was demolished regardless). 

    Second, is a long and detailed article on the Green Man Inn which was - er - at the top of Blackheath Hill in - er - Greenwich.  The Inn actually survived into the 1970s and I remember myself a music hall evening there with a singer who blouse always fell off at the end of her act.  This was however, apparently, a later 'gin palace' and it is its older manifestation in which the author, Nancy Wilson, is interested. The Green Man - at the top of Blackheath Hill - was the site of an inn, as a stopping place on the Dover Road, for many centuries. It was preceded by the Bowling Green Tavern.  The article mainly describes 19th century entertainments and events at the inn which was however demolished in 1868.  There is also some emphasis on its role - like many town centre inns of the day - as a place where civic and adminstrative functions, inquests and so on, were held. For instance it is where where Greenwich Peninsula Wallscott Board held its meetings over the centuries, although they don't get a mention here.  This is a long and detailed article - and clealry there is a lot more to be said about this important Greenwich and Dover Road landmark. Sadly the site is now a block of flats.

    Forthcoming Lewisham meetings  (at Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, 7.45)

    27th January  Royal Fans, History and Owners, Mary Kitson
    24th February Above your head, below your feet. Street furniture. Sue Hayton.
    31st March.  AGM  Modern Nature - living on the edge. Creekside Eco Centre. Nick Bertrand
    28th April.  The Lieutenancy - Col. Jane Davis
    26th May   The Crofton Park Story - Carol Harris
    30th June    Gaseous Goings On. - by - er - me (I intend to say a lot about Greenwich)
    28th July  Sydenham Hill.  Ian MacInnes
    29th September - Abraham Colfe,   Julian Watson
    27th October - The Lenox  Julian Kingston
    24th November - Penguins, not Polar Bears.  Sandra Margolies
    8th December - Members evening.



    Enderby Group and GIHS member Richard Buchanan gave an (archaeological - one of his other hats) talk about the Bronze Age barrow on Shooters Hill on BBC London local news. Sadly this doesn't seem to be on IPlayer - but anyone who has a copy I am sure lots of others of us would like to hear what Richard had to say



    The December 2016 edition of Sub Brit's Magazine is packed with interesting articles of all sorts (they have a world wide remit) - so, what do they say about Greenwich??

    There is just one half page - but very interesting. This is about the days when the Plumstead Bus Garage was on the corner of Kings Highway and Wickham Lane.  Underneath it was, of course, one of the many Plumstead chalk mines - and I guess double decker buses are quite heavy!!  The article is about regular descents into the mine by London Transport's engineers to check its stability. 



    This excellent newsletter is also an email only production. So:

    - PLA have purchased Peruvian Wharf, just across the river in Newham. They intend to turn it into a proper river wharf and terminal to service the London building industry. They have had a long fight to save its protected status.

    - they have produced a new recreational users guide to the Thames. available from

    - MBNA Thames Clippers have been named Ferry Operator of the year for the second year running. This follows the announcement that they have commissioned two new vessels - 170 passenger capacity 



    14th March - they have a talk on London Lighthouses, particularly the one at Blackwall (which you can see from Charlton!).  Clore Learning Centre, Museum of London. 6.30

    The Eltham Society Newsletter is listed for their Journal Prize. (we don't get to see this at GIHS could someone send it or tell us where to get it). Congratulations to Eltham anyway
    (Generally the LAMAS prize is for paper productions only - someone needs to ask them why they ignore electronic media)

    LAMAS list out details of lots of local history societies and their meetings. Many of which are very interesting - and it provides a service by giving information about meetings you wouldn't otherwise hear about.  At the moment Greenwich doesn't feature in this - I know GIHS has been removed (and I know why - its about the wrong sort of subscription) but Greenwich Historial Association also doesn't feature anymore, or come to that Woolwich Antiquarians.  Can someone tell them that historical research in the borough continues apace.



    Woolwich Labour Party was the first organised Labour Party - and it opened its headquarters in Woolwich New Road some thirteen or so years before the national Party got itself together.  The building remained as the HQ until they moved over to Eltham (and I need the date of that move - please, Eltham Labour Party).  In the meantime it was also the Transport and General Workers office and also The Pioneer Bookshop.  For many years it housed the Pioneer Press,   Woolwich Antiquarians have been getting plaques put up all over the place in Woolwich.  I (Mary) have been pursuing the issue of a plaque on the Woolwich New Road building and am anxious to get more information.

    Woolwich Antiquarians have been trying to get plaques put up to all sorts of people over the past few years - but that it tiny tiny compared to the amount which could/should go up. The outskirts of Woolwich and Charlton were stuffed full of important scientists and engineers as well as all the military.  We should stop ignoring all this and get our past recongised a bit more. Lets start - Victoria Way, for instance - Sir John Anderson at one end, Vivien Majendie half way up - and lots of others in between

    I hope not only to get a plaque in Woolwich New Road and some sort of commemoration sorted out, but to get something published - not only locally but in the Labour Heritage publications and other such.

    Talking of which ...............


    The current newsletter draws attention to the 1917 foundation of the Co-op Party.  Now Greenwich and Woolwich have a large and active Co-op Party - one of the largest in the country, we understand. And they are keen to have some sort of commemoration event.  More on that to come.  The situation is a bit more complicated in Greenwich and Woolwich because Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society on the whole didn't have any truck with the Co-op Party but had their own Political Purposes Committee - so the Greenwich Party was only dates from when RACS was sold off to that lot in Manchester.

    There is also a lot of stuff being put out about the early Co-op movement and something called the 'Rochdale Pioneers' - this is all nonsense and the whole of South London should be aware that the earliest consumer co-ops were in Woolwich, getting on for a century earlier.   More of that in the 

    (and I hope they don't dare say that Woolwich in the 1750s was any sort of 'Metropolitan elite')



    We have been contacted by campaigners looking to research the presbytery of our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Charlton Road. There is a blue plaque on the building to Peter Barlow.  This was the older Barlow, an engineer with a distinguished career at the Arsenal.

    Hopefully we can give some details about Barlow and his work - I understand there is a local expert researcher - please get in touch. 

    Meanwhile the campaigners would be grateful for any information



    There has been a lot of hoo ha and a consultation down here in East Greenwich about plans to ask the Environment Agency to consider an extension to the power station to generate more power there and let London Underground (who own it) become less reliant on the grid. There has also been talk of extending this to a district heating scheme to replace old domestic boilers.

    The suggestion has raised a storm of dissent locally as a possible new source of pollution and we understand that the application has now been withdrawn.

    The power station is almost certainly the oldest working power station in Europe - maybe in the world - still operating for its original use (well, underground trains, rather than trams).  I do think we need to keep an eye on this.  A lot of local people would, justifiably, cheer if it stopped generating altogether - but then what?  No doubt London Underground would want to sell the site off for 'luxury river front housing' (as they have done with their other power station in Lots Road, Chelsea). They could take their power generation operation off to somewhere remote with no protestors - pull the Greenwich power station down - and clean up financially, as well as the pollution. (Goodness - aren't they lucky there were so many protests, who could have foreseen it).

    Look - used for power generation or not - this is an important and distinctive building. Do we really want another block of generic riverside flats.  Do visitors really want to look at a riverside path with more and more sterile blocks - why isn't something interesting done with the jetty??

    Can I just suggest someone has a think about this, and quickly, before the next surprise announcement is made.  


    This has been a very long newsletter and several items have been left over:

    - Thames path closures

    - real progress by the Enderby Group

    and much more

    sorry. back soon

    Peace and love 


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